- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The U.S. ambassador to Egypt has become a lightning rod for criticism among Egyptians who accuse her of embracing the deposed Muslim Brotherhood-led government, even as a popular uprising was building against it in the streets of Cairo.

At last week’s protests against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, some of the anger was directed against Ambassador Anne Patterson and President Obama. Among the millions of protesters who packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, some held images of Mrs. Patterson and Mr. Obama with crosses marked across their faces.

Their anger was fueled by a June 18 speech in which Mrs. Patterson welcomed the opportunity to “set the record straight” on the U.S. relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and expressed skepticism over the virtues of protests, which were just beginning at the time.

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“Some say that street action will produce better results than elections,” Mrs. Patterson said. “To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical.”

Less than three weeks later, the military toppled Mr. Morsi’s government after four days of massive protests.

“Ambassador Patterson came up with statements that seemed to be dismissive of the uprising,” said Bassem Sabry, an Egyptian political commentator. “She didn’t seem to know how to react to the situation and wasn’t pleasing anyone.”

“The U.S. administration has a very bad favorability in Egypt. Even Mr. Obama’s ratings have dipped to historic lows since his speech at Cairo University [in 2009], so dissatisfaction with Anne Patterson reflects dissatisfaction with the Obama administration,” Mr. Sabry added.

Many Egyptians thought the Obama administration was interested in supporting the Morsi government only to ensure protection for its interests in the region, such as Egyptian peace with Israel.

‘That’s part of her job’

Michele Dunne, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said that while criticism of the Obama administration’s Egypt policy is valid, Mrs. Patterson was doing what is expected of almost any ambassador: cultivating the best possible relationship with the host government.

“I have no indication that she was doing anything other than what the administration wanted her to do,” Ms. Dunne said.

She faulted the Obama administration for not doing enough to reach out to opposition and civil society groups.

“The opposition felt puzzled by how few contacts they got from the U.S. and how superficial these contacts were,” she said. “They often felt that American visitors — from the administration as well as Congress — were just checking the box by meeting a representative from the opposition and that there was no genuine interest in engaging them.”

On Wednesday, the leader of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, Younis Makhioun, denied reports in the Egyptian media that he had struck a deal with Mrs. Patterson to stall the formation of an interim government and give Mr. Morsi a shot at returning to office.

The Nour Party, which sided with the military and liberal opposition groups in toppling the Morsi government, delayed the appointment of the interim prime minister this week by rejecting the choice of Mohamed ElBaradei, a former chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, for the job.

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