WASHINGTON — One of the point people at the helm of the State Department’s strategy against the Islamic State and coalition-building effort is the U.S. ambassador reviled in Egypt for cozying with the Muslim Brotherhood during the summer 2013 Tamarod protests.
Both President Obama and Anne Patterson were lambasted by protesters as propping up the Muslim Brotherhood and sanctioning the Islamists’ abuses against the Egyptian people. As the U.S. envoy in Cairo, Patterson discouraged the epic protests against Islamist rule and reportedly tried to dissuade Coptic Christians from taking part.
Egyptian protesters were not shy about expressing their feelings of betrayal, hoisting banners that accused Obama of supporting terrorism in backing the Morsi government and holding photos of Patterson smiling and laughing at a meeting with Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie. “We know what you did last summer,” read one banner, while another said, “Anne Patterson, leave Egypt now and go to hell!!!”
“Wake up America, Obama backs up a fascist regime in Egypt,” said one banner, while another placed an international “no” symbol over Obama’s face and read, “Obama, you can’t fool your people and the world any more. You finance & back terrorism.”
Al-Ahram newspaper ran a piece accusing Patterson of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to smuggle fighters in from Gaza to “spread chaos” in the country.
“Your article’s claim that I personally am involved in a conspiracy to divide and destabilise Egypt is absolutely absurd and dangerous,” she wrote in a letter slamming the article as “outrageous, fictitious, and thoroughly unprofessional.”
When she left the ambassador post at the end of August, Egyptians partied outside the U.S. Embassy in a “good riddance” celebration.
Patterson was promoted to assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs at the end of last year.
Secretary of State John Kerry stressed to both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees this week that Patterson is one of the team leaders in building and executing the anti-ISIS coalition strategy.
Kerry recently brought on board retired Gen. John Allen, who led coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, to act as “Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.”
“Ambassador Brett McGurk as well as Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson, who was so much a part of the effort against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, are also leading the team,” Kerry told House lawmakers.
After telling much the same to the Senate committee, Kerry added, “The fact is if we do this right, then this effort could actually become a model for what we can do with respect to the individual terrorist groups in other places that continue to wreak havoc on the efforts of governments to build their states and provide for their people.”
McGurk is a deputy assistant secretary of State now serving as Allen’s senior envoy with the rank of ambassador. Earlier this month, McGurk said that an ISIS strategy included the hope that Sunni tribal leaders will get “sick and tired” of the terror group and kick them out of territory.
Patterson accompanied Kerry on his travels, last week into this week, to Jeddah, Ankara, Cairo and Paris to build the coalition-in-the-works much touted by the administration.
In Ankara, Kerry called Patterson “not just a three-time ambassador and an ambassador of recent time to both Pakistan and to Egypt, but also one of our nation’s top diplomats deeply respected in the region, and she will continue to lead our diplomacy throughout the Middle East.”
At a May hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) noted that Patterson previously “came in here and wanted to talk about a strategy on Syria and talked about the fact that they had one.”
“…So you know, Anne said she had a strategy and they wanted to share with us this strategy. It’s been 41 days. I haven’t gotten a phone call. Mr. Chairman, have you gotten a phone call regarding a Syria strategy? I don’t think so.”
In June, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said members emerged from a classified briefing delivered by Patterson skeptical about how much of a handle the Obama administration had on the Iraq crisis.
“During today’s briefing, members of the committee expressed grave concern over the threat posed to Iraqis, the region, and the national security interests of the United States, by this al-Qaeda off-shoot,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in regard to the seizure of Iraqi cities, including Mosul, by ISIS.
“Having failed to act months ago with drone strikes – as repeatedly requested by the Iraqi government – it is clear that the Obama administration is struggling to respond to this urgent situation,” Royce said. “Members of the committee pressed back on the notion that Iran could be a ‘constructive’ partner. While the administration continues to ‘review its options’ the threat from this al-Qaeda group grows greater and greater.”
That month, Patterson told the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, that “we see important diplomatic and security challenges that will require more tailored strategies if we are to succeed.”
“I believe we can do much together to contain and roll back the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s aspirations to create a terrorist state in western Iraq and eastern Syria. ISIL draws on the widespread anger in the region and beyond over the Assad regime’s brutal repression of its people — repression supported by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. To defeat ISIL, the United States and the countries of the region need to work in concert — and overcome some differences — to develop effective policies and durable solutions to this dangerous threat,” Patterson said.
The caliphate was declared by ISIS 20 days later.
“Counter-terrorism strategies sometimes require the use of military power, but we must also use other tools, including diplomacy and development to take on the appeal that terrorists still can have for angry, disenfranchised and unemployed young people,” Patterson also said. “And as allies, we need to strengthen our business and people-to-people ties.”
Last week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) recalled in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that in June Patterson told lawmakers she was “optimistic that the elections in Libya, which were the third in less than two years, would be an important step forward toward Libya’s stability.”
“Now we see that that was misplaced optimism as the situation is worse than ever,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “…In our sub hearing Assistant Secretary Patterson said ‘the most urgent objective we have is for counterterrorism.’ Yet three years after Gadhafi and over a year after the U.S. committed to train the General Purpose Force, GPF, not a single one of the 5,000 to 8,000 planned forces has in fact been trained.”