Egypt in the News on 17 February 2021
Expect this to dominate the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press for the next while: Relatives of Egyptian American activist Mohamed Soltan were reportedly arrested earlier this week in a move the Washington Post described as “defying the Biden administration” after the US president highlighted Soltan’s case during his election campaign as part of a call for Egypt to improve its rights record. Soltan is the son of Salah Soltan, a one-time senior leader of the Ikhwan, and was himself detained in Egypt for more than a year before being released in 2015. The Post suggests presents this as a test case for the relationship between Washington and Cairo under Biden’s presidency, noting that the new president has yet to speak with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
This comes as Biden is set to redefine relations with key regional allies. Reuters says the US president “will conduct diplomacy through Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz” rather than MbS, with White House spokesperson Jen Psaki saying, “We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” The approach to ties with Riyadh, she said, “certainly is a shift from the prior administration.” Psaki also sidestepped criticism that Biden hasn’t rushed fast enough to embrace Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.