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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.

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.