Recent days have seen a further sharp deterioration in Egypt.
Against a background of economic crisis, Salafi Islamist groups are increasingly assertive. The Salafis are engaged in the violent harassment of Egyptian Copts and secular oppositionists, and in ongoing attempts to pressure the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi to accede to their policy demands through public agitation and disorder.
The government, meanwhile, finds itself caught in an inescapable dilemma over economic and social policy.
Foreign currency reserves are running dangerously low at $13.4 billion – 60 percent below their December 2010 level. Egypt is currently seeking a loan of $4.8b. from the International Monetary Fund. But the conditions likely to accompany the granting of these funds will exacerbate the social discontent in Egypt, to the benefit of the government’s opponents.