Obama to name Anne Patterson next US envoy to Egypt

Laura Rozen

The Obama administration is preparing to nominate veteran diplomat Anne Patterson as the next U.S. ambassador to Egypt, as it undergoes a critical period of political transformation from three decades of autocratic rule by the recently deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

Patterson, a career Foreign Service officer, has served in several challenging diplomatic posts, most recently as the well-regarded U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. As the top U.S. diplomat in Islamabad from 2007 to 2010, Patterson has been a key member of Obama's Af-Pak national security team, involved in frequent White House inter-agency consultations on the war in Afghanistan. Patterson previously served as acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to Colombia, and to El Salvador.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the appointment, which has not yet been officially announced, is in the works. Patterson could not be reached for comment. If confirmed, Patterson will succeed Amb. Margaret Scobey. U.S. diplomatic rotations usually occur every three years, over the summer.

"We're moving a very talented diplomat ... to Egypt where the trend lines are complex but pretty positive," former U.S. Middle East diplomat Aaron Miller said of the anticipated Patterson nomination to the Cairo post. "They also need someone who has experience dealing  with a powerful military in a quasi-democratic situation" -- as Patterson has encountered in Pakistan. Such "structural" experience may make up for the fact that Patterson is not an Egypt expert per se, as another Washington Middle East expert noted.

The administration is also preparing to nominate a trusted Obama White House Middle East adviser, National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, as the next U.S. ambasssador to Israel, to succeed Amb. James Cunningham.

(State Department photo.)