The Cable

Obama Nominates Controversial Egypt Ambassador to Top Middle East Post

Ascending from the chaos of Egypt’s military coup, U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson was nominated to Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs on Thursday, an increasingly crucial post given the turbulence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other pockets in the region. A seasoned diplomat with years of the experience, Patterson became a ...

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CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 30: An Egyptian opposition protester holds a poster of the United States of America's Ambassador to Egypt, Ann Paterson, during a demonstration in Tahrir Square as part of the 'Tamarod' campaign on June 30, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. Crowds of pro- and anti-Morsi protesters gathered in locations across Egypt on June 30, the day of a series of nation-wide mass demonstrations entitled 'Tamarod', or 'Rebel', planned to take place on the first anniversary of Morsi's election to the Egyptian Presidency. The 'Tamarod' campaign, organised by a coalition of opposition political groups, aims to bring down the government of President Morsi through country-wide demonstrations. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).

Ascending from the chaos of Egypt’s military coup, U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson was nominated to Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs on Thursday, an increasingly crucial post given the turbulence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other pockets in the region.

A seasoned diplomat with years of the experience, Patterson became a focal point of this summer’s uprising against deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, as liberal protesters accused her of siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and failing to hold Morsy accountable for his creeping authoritarianism. State Department officials, however, aggressively defended her as a skilled diplomat who effectively carried out U.S. policy in the most difficult of circumstances.

In announcing her appointment alongside a number of other positions, President Barack Obama said "These dedicated individuals bring a wealth of experience and talent to their new roles and I am proud to have them serve in this Administration."

Though most ambassadors rarely make headlines, Patterson was drawn in the revolution in a visceral way as Cairo demonstrators fashioned protest signs with red X’s on her face and insulting pejoratives. "We find it abhorrent and reprehensible," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in July in response to the signs. "The ambassador has very much stated U.S. policies."

Patterson attracted the ire of more secular protesters after arranging meetings with Muslim Brotherhood members and discouraging street protests. "Some say that street action will produce better results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical," she said in May.

To this day, that quote has yet to be proven wrong as Egypt’s interim government attempts to hamfistedly retake control of the country; Patterson remains widely-respected within the State Department.  But her message was not one the liberal opposition wanted to hear, and back in Washington, a number of Republicans took her to task for it, including Reps. Michael McCaul, Scott Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz.  "The Ambassador’s remarks [were] a reflection of President Obama’s complete disregard for political reality and his administration’s failure to leverage our contacts within Egypt’s military and support efforts to steer Egypt away from Islamist radicalism," McCaul told The Cable in July.

In other nomination news, Sarah Sewall, who had a major hand in General David Petraeus’ revision of the counterinsurgency manual, was nominated to be Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

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