Your Monday Briefing: In Mideast, Biden Eyes China and Russia

We’re covering President Biden’s efforts to curb Russia and China’s influence in the Middle East, and Egypt’s repressive system of pretrial detention.

President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, during the GCC + 3 Summit meeting, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Biden hopes Mideast alliances will contain Russia and China

In a series of encounters with Arab strongmen in Saudi Arabia this weekend, President Biden emphasized why he was strengthening ties with allies he had previously criticized for anti-democratic behavior.

“We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” Biden said at a meeting with Arab leaders on Saturday.

Beyond the traditional justifications for American involvement in the region — such as securing oil and keeping a military presence — Biden is driven largely by a belief that close ties may be the only way to accomplish his larger goal of containing Russia and China.

Biden’s effort here to negotiate greater oil production in the Middle East is driven by the need to make Russia pay a steep price for invading Ukraine. So far, the Russians have managed to maintain much of their oil revenues in part because of the jump in the price of oil. Biden also pushed for closer telecommunications agreements with the Saudis — an industry in which China has been able to wield its influence abroad.


  • In negotiating with the Saudis, Biden’s vow to ostracize Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents fell by the wayside.

  • Biden also visited Israel and the West Bank earlier on the trip, where he had contrasting messages for Israelis and Palestinians.

Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, has seen increased Russian shelling in recent weeks.Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Zelensky urges civilians to stop ignoring air raid sirens

The wail of air raid sirens has become so common in Ukraine that some locals now often ignore them and go about their life.

But after a series of deadly missile attacks, the government is urging Ukrainians to be vigilant. “I’m begging you, once again: Please don’t ignore the air alert signals,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

A U.S. military official said that between 100 and 150 civilians may have been killed in Russian strikes in Ukraine last week, including an attack in the city of Vinnytsia that killed 23 people, among them Liza Dmytriyeva, a 4-year-old with Down syndrome. On Sunday, at least 10 Russian missiles rained down on Mykolaiv in the second significant attack on the southern port city in two days.

More news from the war:

  • Sweeping changes in Russia’s curriculum for schoolchildren will cast Vladimir Putin as a pivotal historical figure and mark an end of openness to the West. A senior Kremlin bureaucrat told teachers, “We need to know how to infect them with our ideology.”

  • Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, directed his country’s troops to “further intensify” military action across Ukraine.

  • Finance ministers from the G20 concluded their meeting in Indonesia over the weekend without an agreement to cap the price of Russian oil, as the U.S. had proposed.

  • Working with the Red Cross, Yana Muravinets, a 27-year-old photographer, takes on a daunting task: encouraging Ukrainians to evacuate their hometowns — and all they have built there over a lifetime — in order to survive.

The “vicious cycle” of Egypt’s pretrial detentions

In Egypt, it has become almost routine for security forces to arrest someone, accuse them of terrorist activity without proof, and detain them for months or years without ever having to prove their case at trial.

Pretrial detentions have become Egypt’s chief engine of mass repression under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has cracked down on his critics on a vastly greater scale than his predecessors.

One case involved the arrest of a politician mulling running against el-Sisi; another, two women on a Cairo subway overheard complaining about rising fares; a third, a young conscript who posted a Facebook meme of el-Sisi wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

But while detentions have ramped up in recent years, they have operated almost entirely in the dark — no public records exist of how many people are held in pretrial detention. An analysis by The New York Times counts for the first time the number of detainees and exposes the circular legal process that can hold people indefinitely.

In the six months from September 2020 to February 2021, about 4,500 people were trapped in pretrial detention, a number based on a conservative estimate. At least one in four of the detainees had spent more than a year in detention, their cases extended without trial over and over again.

For more, read the full Times investigation.

Behind the scenes: The Times spent the better part of a year digging into Egypt’s detention system by examining handwritten logs, translating them and manually checking each name for verification. Here’s how we counted the detainees.



A photo released by Chinese state media showing Xi Jinping visiting Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, on Wednesday.Credit…Yan Yan/Xinhua, via Associated Press
  • China’s leader, Xi Jinping, made his first visit to the western region of Xinjiang since he unleashed a campaign of mass detentions of Uyghurs there.

  • “Frowning is not allowed!” — in an effort to improve public service, a mayor in the Philippines ordered all municipal workers to smile on the job or face disciplinary action.

  • In Nepal, kumari are young girls worshiped as goddesses but often denied an education. With her fresh M.B.A. in hand, one former kumari is pushing for reforms and encouraging girls to study.

News From Europe

Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy in Rome on Friday.Credit…Angelo Carconi/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • An Italian government crisis has exposed the fragility of a Europe contending with rising energy prices, a plunging currency, faltering leadership and a war in Ukraine.

  • A race for Britain’s next prime minister is underway. Here are the likely contenders.

  • After two years of pandemic restrictions, demand for travel has come roaring back in Europe, and airports are finding it difficult to keep up.

  • A life-threatening heat wave is sweeping across Europe, with temperatures expected to reach 104 degrees in Britain this week, for the first time on record.

What Else Is Happening

  • The global economy is sliding toward danger, confronting an unusual combination of slowing growth and rising prices.

  • A drug kingpin convicted of orchestrating the torture and murder of an American federal agent was captured in northern Mexico.

  • World’s fastest man: American sprinter Fred Kerley won the men’s 100-meter race at the track and field world championships. Follow along for updates from the event.

  • The head of Documenta, one of the art world’s most important events, has resigned, a month after a banner featuring antisemitic imagery was installed at the exhibition.

A Morning Read

Villagers hired by Eden Reforestation Projects planting trees in the northern part of Goiás State, Brazil.Credit…Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

Seeking to alleviate both the local problems of deforestation and the global problems of biodiversity loss and climate change, companies and nonprofits have been promoting worldwide campaigns for planting trees — with the aim of growing a trillion new trees. But reaching that goal is easier said than done.

Lives Lived: Ivana Trump, the glamorous Czech-American businesswoman whose marriage to Donald Trump in the 1980s established the pair as one of New York’s quintessential power couples of that era, died at 73.


Superhero fatigue?

Some 29 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have premiered since 2008 — an average of almost two per year. In those 14 years, critics predicted that audiences would eventually get tired of superhero movies. In The Times, one media analyst warned of “superhero fatigue” in 2011. Asked about it last year, a quarter of U.S. adults said they enjoyed superhero movies but were getting tired of them.

But that sentiment is not reflected at the box office. “Thor: Love and Thunder” opened last weekend and earned $302 million worldwide, grossing more in its U.S. debut than previous Thor movies. Earlier this year, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” made $954 million worldwide. And 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” finished its run at $1.9 billion.

Next up: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” this November. Its 2018 predecessor made $1.3 billion.


What to Cook

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Sue Li. Prop stylist: Nicole Louie.

This sous-chef salad includes vegetables, canned tuna and hard-boiled eggs.

What to Read

Isaac Fitzgerald’s new memoir “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” is about male misbehavior and the struggle to make sense of oneself.

What to Listen To

This week’s pop playlist features songs from Lizzo, Pink, Marcus Mumford and others.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword.

Here are today’s Wordle and Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew

P.S. The Times and Hasbro are creating a board game based on Wordle.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the James Webb Space Telescope.

You can reach Matthew and the team at [email protected].

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