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Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty

The conflict in Gaza gave Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a leading regional role and made him a key partner for the Biden administration in the region.

Why it matters: While Sisi was Donald Trump's "favorite dictator," President Biden signaled during the campaign that he would push strongmen like Sisi on human rights, and the new administration hardly engaged with Egypt after taking office.

Behind the scenes: The first call between Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was tough, and the State Department's terse readout focused on human rights.

  • So cold were the initial interactions that Israeli defense officials lobbied their U.S. counterparts not to put too much pressure on Egypt due to its importance in regional security.

But early into the Gaza conflict, the White House realized Egypt was the only player who could mediate a ceasefire, U.S. officials tell me.

  • That conclusion led to calls between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, as well as Blinken and Shoukry.
  • Eventually, it led Biden to place his first call as president to Sisi, who assured the U.S. president that Egypt could ensure Hamas stopped firing if Israel adopted the ceasefire.

On Monday, Biden called Sisi again to thank him for his efforts to broker the ceasefire.

  • The White House said Biden and Sisi also consulted on the rebuilding process for Gaza (though there was a reference to human rights at the end of the statement).
  • Blinken today became the first member of Biden's Cabinet to visit Cairo, meeting Sisi and Shoukry.

What’s next: During his trip to the region, Blinken has said repeatedly that Egypt will have a key role in the Gaza reconstruction efforts.

Go deeper: How Biden handled the Gaza crisis

Go deeper

Sep 1, 2021 - Technology

Facebook says it helped airlift Afghans, including employees, to Mexico

Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook on Wednesday confirmed that it was part of an effort to fly 175 Afghan citizens out of Afghanistan to Mexico, including some of its own employees, according to a statement provided to Axios.

Details: The tech giant said that in an effort to get some of its employees out of the country, it joined with a group that it declined to name that is working to help journalists in Afghanistan leave the country as the Taliban assumes control.

Trump voices support for Saturday's pro-Capitol riots rally

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with people facing prosecution in connection to the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The statement was issued ahead of Saturday's rally to protest the treatment of Capitol rioters. Over 600 known federal defendants face charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.