- Egypt holds its presidential elections on May 23-24. If no candidate wins an outright majority, a runoff will be held June 16-17 and a president will be named no later than June 21. Amr Moussa, who served as foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak and then went on to head up the Arab League, is the front-runner among the thirteen candidates. The polls suggest, however, that he won’t win an outright majority in the first round. The two challengers with the best shot of squaring off against Moussa in the second round are Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Ahmed Shafiq. Aboul Fotouh is a liberal Islamist and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been endorsed by conservative Islamist (or Salafist) leaders. Shafiq served briefly as prime minister in the waning days of Mubarak’s regime. The top issues in the campaign are the economy and public security, but the issue that dominated Egypt’s first-ever televised debate (which lasted four hours) was the role of Islam in government.
- NATO leaders descend on Chicago next week for the NATO Summit, which is being held in the United States for the first time since 1999. The summit will be centered on Afghanistan’s future after the end of the NATO military mission there in 2014. But a background issue will be the alliance’s future. New French president François Hollande campaigned on a pledge to have all French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year—though upon taking the oath of office this week he discovered that that might not be logistically possible—and several other NATO countries want out as well or never got in. Meanwhile, with fiscal austerity the name of the game in domestic politics, many NATO countries are cutting defense budgets rather than increasing them.
- Baghdad will host the P5+1 talks with Iran over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. This comes on the heels of talks in Vienna between Iranian officials and the IAEA. Tehran is under growing economic pressure to halt its enrichment activities; India recently announced that it would scale back its purchases of Iranian oil. But whether the pain is great enough for Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions remains unknown.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is 50.4 percent. My Figure of the Week is Jamie Dimon. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.
For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:
Egypt and the Elections. The Water’s Edge asks if Egyptians dislike the United States. Steven Cook writes about the “real crisis” in Egypt. IFES has an election guide for this and past Egyptian elections. Al-Jazeera has a live election blog. Christopher Santarelli of the “Blaze” thinks Egypt’s election may be “trouble for Israel.” Reuters reports that Egypt’s election committee will stop working after it received criticism from parliament. NPR has the story from when about half of the presidential candidates were banned.
The NATO Summit. The summit has an official website. USA Today says that protestors are on their way to the Windy City, and Reuters says Chicago should brace itself for violence. The New York Times reports that the United States and Pakistan have a deal to “open NATO supply lines.” Human Rights Watch claims in a new report that NATO has not acknowledged multiple civilian deaths during its operation in Libya. John Kass of the Chicago Tribune tries to help NATO officials understand “Chicago-style diplomacy.”
The P5+1’s Talks with Iran. Jeffrey Goldberg argues on Bloomberg that “Ehud Barak is the man to watch” during the nuclear talks. Reuters reports that Iran claims the pressures it is under might derail the planned talks. Laura Rozen attempts to read the “tea leaves” ahead of the talks. The Christian Science Monitor notes that talks in Vienna between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency ahead of the Baghdad meetings were good. The Arms Control Association has a history of official proposals by Iran in regard to its nuclear program.