Secretary of Defense General Mattis has withdrawn his choice for the top civilian position in the Defense Department, Anne Patterson, after she was criticized from multiple angles, chiefly because of her coziness with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
But the question remains: Why pick her in the first place? In addition, we’re learning of several other questionable holdovers from the Obama Administration remaining in the Trump Administration (so far, it’s still early).
Mattis is an enemy of Islamism, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime. That’s what made his choice of Patterson, former President Obama’s ambassador to Egypt — best known for her staunch support of the Muslim Brotherhood — so surprising and disappointing. Those who saw President Trump’s staff choices as signaling a tough stance on the Brotherhood and Islamism felt as if they were suddenly smacked across the face.
Patterson is famous for defending the Brotherhood and its government under President Morsi—before, during and after the popular uprising that toppled them. She went so far as to publicly discourage protests against the Brotherhood and to pressure the Coptic pope to tell the Egyptian Christians to stop opposing the Islamist regime.
Patterson was so friendly towards the Brotherhood that when the U.S. embassy tweeted a video of Jon Stewart mocking Morsi, she had the embassy’s account temporarily deleted. State Department spokeswoman Nuland said the tweet was a mistake and new regulations were being put into place.
The tweet came after the U.S. embassy’s frustrations with Morsi reached a height and began calling out the Brotherhood’s double-talk — how the organization was speaking moderately in English and then inciting anti-Americanism and violence in Arabic.
Patterson was so hated in Egypt that anti-Brotherhood protestors had her face on their protest signs. Christian journalist and anti-Islamist activist Raymond Ibrahim posted pictures of those demonstrations, including some outside the U.S. embassy which were held to protest her actions.
Ibrahim also cited a poll by a pro-secular/pro-Christian newspaper in Egypt found that 88% of Egyptians wanted Patterson expelled from the country. While it might not have been a nationally representative poll, it represented the opinions of Egyptians most likely to be our allies.
Patterson was furthermore, known for criticizing Israel’s actions and internal review into its security personnel killing a Palestinian-American as he was trying to commit a mass stabbing in November 2016. Patterson was the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs at the time.
Had Mattis had his way, Patterson would have become the Defense Department’s undersecretary of defense for policy; the top civilian job and the fourth highest official.
Senator Tom Cotton opposed her for this position due to her lack of suitable experience in for the post.
This isn’t the only issue with staffing that could lead to internal rivalries and undermining of Trump’s central policies.
Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who is described as an “architect of the Iran deal,” is still in a senior position overseeing U.S. policy towards Iran. She joined the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff in July 2016 after serving for two years as the director for Iran and the nuclear deal on the National Security Council.
Nowrouzzadeh previously worked for the National American-Iranian Council (NIAC), which is widely accused of being a lobbyist for the Iranian regime. In February, about 100 Iranian activists opposed to the regime requested congressional investigations into Iranian political influence operations in America, including NIAC.
We don’t know for sure, but perhaps that has something to do with why President Trump strangely omitted any mention of the nuclear deal with Iran from his first Joint Address to Congress. The administration’s initial move towards designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is also reportedly in “limbo.”
Jordan Schachtel points out that two other State Department holdovers are overseeing Israeli-Palestinian policy.
In addition, President Trump’s choice of National Security Advisor, General H.R. McMaster, immediately contradicted the core foundation of the Trump Administration’s policy by telling the National Security Council staff that it is wrong to define the enemy as “radical Islam.” It was already reported that he had said that ISIS is “not Islamic,” as I pointed out in my initially enthusiastic response to his selection.
My assumption was that this was due to political climate in which he made the statement as well as a tactical maneuver vis-à-vis ISIS, rather than a broader view of counter-terrorism strategy. It seemed inconceivable that President Trump would pick someone so at odds with a core foundation of his policy and that such a person would agree to the appointment and immediately undermine the policy he was chosen to implement.
The good news in the case of Patterson is that the pressure worked and she was dropped. But two questions still remain: Why was she chosen in the first place? And how difficult will it be to implement significant policy changes with hostile holdovers from the previous administration still in place.
It’s time for Trump to “drain the swamp.”
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. To invite Ryan to speak please contact us.