White House wisely pushes back on questionable Mattis selection

Eliana Johnson reports that some White House officials are opposing the selection by James Mattis of Anne Patterson for the position of undersecretary of defense for policy. The opposition reportedly stems mainly from Patterson’s actions as U.S. ambassador to Egypt in the Obama administration.

Eliana explains:

Patterson worked closely with former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist government. She came under fire for cultivating too close a relationship with the regime and for discouraging protests against it—and White House officials are voicing concerns about those decisions now.

I discussed Patterson’s support of Morsi here, stating:

Patterson stood firmly behind the Brotherhood as it persecuted opponents and attempted to consolidate its rule. Consequently, she was reviled by the Brotherhood’s opponents to the point that, according to Johnson, when she left her post Egyptians partied outside the U.S. Embassy in a “good riddance” celebration.

I also criticized Patterson’s subsequent performance assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Citing Bridget Johnson’s reporting, I wrote:

[M]embers of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concluded, based on briefings from [Patterson], that she and the administration she represents had no handle on the emerging threat posed by ISIS. While she spoke in platitudes about countering ISIS using “diplomacy and development” and by “strengthening our business and people-to-people ties,” the terrorists were rampaging through Iraq and establishing their caliphate.

Patterson has been equally clueless on the subject of Libya. . .Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen 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.”

To say that Patterson is clueless about Israel and the Palestinians would probably be charitable. Biased against Israel may be a better description

Palestinian Media Watch tells us: “In testimony to Congress, Patterson defended the Palestinian Authority practice of paying salaries to terrorists in prison saying ‘they have to provide for the families.'”

In addition, Patterson reportedly supported, and may have been a driver behind, the Obama administration’s one-sided approach to the killing of a PLO terrorist who happened to hold American citizenship:

The U.S. Embassy in Israel demanded that the Israeli government launch a full-scale investigation of the [Mahmoud] Shalan incident. For some reason, the embassy did not demand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) investigate why Shalan, who was a resident of PA territory, was trying to murder Israelis.

Nor do I recall the U.S. embassy ever urging the PA to investigate when its own policemen have murdered American citizens in Israel. The embassy’s concerns seem to be quite selective.

Well, the Israeli government did conduct an investigation. The conclusions were straightforward. The Israeli Military Advocate General reported to the Obama administration that Shalan tried to commit murder and the soldiers were justified to shoot back. Therefore, the soldiers were not prosecuted.

Nevertheless, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Anne Patterson asserted this week that the Obama administration “continues to have concerns about the death of this American citizen.” She vowed that the administration “will remain engaged with the government of Israel on this issue.”

(Emphasis added)

Secretary of Mattis is vastly respected and deserves plenty of deference when it comes to picking his top staff. However, if any of the reporting cited above is correct, and surely some of it is, the White House is wise to question giving a top policy position at the Pentagon to Anne Patterson.

And, absent a good explanation by Mattis of his support for Patterson, the White House would be wise to wonder what that backing says about how he views the Middle East.

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