News & Politics

Mattis Withdraws Anne Patterson as Controversial Choice for Defense Position

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, left, meets with US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson in Cairo Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has withdrawn retired diplomat Anne Patterson as his controversial choice for undersecretary for policy. According to The Washington Postthe decision came after the White House had indicated it was unwilling to fight for Patterson in her battle for Senate confirmation.

U.S. officials said that two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), were strongly opposed to Patterson’s nomination because she served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, a time when the Obama administration supported an elected government with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that was ultimately overthrown by the Egyptian military.

The withdrawal leaves Mattis with a still-empty bench of Trump-appointed senior officials, a situation that stretches across the administration as Cabinet secretaries have not chosen, or the White House has not approved, nominees. Although Obama administration holdovers remain in a few jobs, after eight weeks in office, President Trump has not nominated a single high official under Cabinet rank in the Defense or State departments.

The White House plans this week — perhaps as early as Tuesday — to announce a handful of approved nominees proposed by Mattis for senior Defense Department positions, but Patterson will not be among them, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about internal decision-making.

As Raymond Ibrahim reported here at PJ Media last week, the fact that Patterson was being considered for the appointment was highly problematic, to say the least. While she was ambassador to Egypt between 2011 and 2013, Patterson was very friendly with former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamist government.

Back during the months leading to the June 30, 2013 revolution, Patterson — the “Brotherhood’s Stooge” as she was called by all, from news analysts to the Egyptian street — was arguably one of the most hated individuals by the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets against Morsi and the Brotherhood.

Not only did her face regularly appear next to Obama’s in placards; it sometimes appeared alone, indicating just how closely she was seen as supporting the Brotherhood.

During the June 2013 revolution, a popular Egyptian newspaper conducted a survey asking its readers:

Do you support the call to kick U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson out because she interfered in Egyptian affairs?

A whopping 87.93% said yes, 10.54% said no, and 1.53% were indifferent. Youm 7’s audience is almost exclusively secular-leaning or Christian. It was the non-Islamists of Egypt that disliked the U.S. ambassador — not the Muslim Brotherhood, which benefited from her.

Patterson was supported (not surprisingly) by Muslim Brotherhood-friendly Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). According to the Post, Patterson “was seen as likely to have garnered a majority of votes from both Republicans and Democrats,” but the Trump administration seems to have put the kibosh on it, thank goodness.

More from The Washington Post:

While the administration has denounced the Muslim Brotherhood, its plans to issue an executive order designating it as a terrorist organization appear to have fallen at least temporarily by the wayside as a number of Middle East experts and U.S. allies in the region have warned against it.

A Sunni Islam organization founded in Egypt early last century, the Brotherhood is now a widespread, loosely organized religious and social movement across the Arab world. While current governments in some countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, consider its adherents terrorists, its chapters operate openly, in some cases holding elected office, in countries such as Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan.

The Brotherhood has been a longtime target of the far right. Cruz recently reintroduced legislation calling on the State Department to consider a terrorist designation and saying that the Brotherhood espouses “a violent Islamist ideology with a mission of destroying the West.”

Cotton, who has compared the Brotherhood to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, has said that it opposes Western civilization and “wants to launch terrorist attacks against us.”

His short-lived nomination of Patterson was not the first time Mattis has butted heads with the Trump White House over an appointment.

His initial choice for deputy secretary, Michele Flournoy, withdrew from consideration after meetings with White House officials. Flournoy served as the department’s undersecretary under former president Barack Obama.

The sooner Mattis can come up with a satisfactory nominee, the better. The position is currently being held by Robert Work, an Obama holdover who has agreed to remain in office for as long as he needs to.