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Middle Eastern autocrats buoyed by Trump's backing

Egypt's parliament today essentially cleared the way for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to rule through 2034. Constitutional changes that "would demolish ... safeguards [Sisi] introduced in 2014" are now on track for approval "within three months," per the NY Times.

MBS (L) and Sisi in Cairo. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Flashback: Sisi told CNBC before last year's sham election that he supported the system of "two four-year terms" and would "not interfere" with the constitution.
  • Between the lines: "Washington’s unquestioning embrace of Mr. el-Sisi, whom President Trump has called a 'great guy,' emboldened the Egyptian leader to act with little fear of American pushback," the Times notes.

Meanwhile: Members of Congress have taken a series of steps since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to pile pressure on the Saudis, and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump has rebuffed them at every turn.

  • The latest: The Trump administration missed a recent deadline to assign responsibility for Khashoggi's death and potentially trigger sanctions. It ignored a deadline to certify the Saudis are limiting civilian casualties in Yemen. The House just passed a bill to cut off military assistance to the Saudis in that war — and the White House has threatened a veto if it passes the Senate.
  • Between the lines: The administration has been steadfast in backing the Saudis. But the votes in Congress show the winds outside the White House are blowing in a different direction.

Go deeper: Despite Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia unlikely to lose U.S. investments

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