Syria "Expert" Cited by Kerry, McCain Fired for Lying about Academic Credentials

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Common Dreams

Syria "Expert" Cited by Kerry, McCain Fired for Lying about Academic Credentials

Think tank that employed Elizabeth O'Bagy fires analyst who made case that Syrian opposition was more moderate

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

A foreign policy analayst repeatedly cited by U.S. government officials—including Secretary of State John Kerry in testimony before Congress last week—has been fired after the think tank where she has been working discovered she was lying about her academic credentials.

Elizabeth O’Bagy, who has been cited as an expert on Syria by numerous media outlets, was employed by the Institute for Study of War in Washington D.C., but has been terminated after it was discovered she did not hold a doctorate from Georgetown University as she had claimed.

“The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University,” the think tank announced in a statement. “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”

O'Bagy's expertise on the rebel forces aligned against President Bashar al-Assad was used to bolster arguments by those calling for U.S. intervention by painting a picture that the moderate elements within the opposition were in the ascendent over more extreme militias, such as the Al Nusra Front which has pledged allegiance to al Qaida.

Her objectivity, however, was questioned even before these new revelations about her academic background surfaced.

As McClatchy reports:

O’Bagy’s termination followed a controversy that erupted last week when it emerged that in addition to being an institute analyst, she worked for the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a non-profit group that lobbies for U.S. support for Syrian rebel forces.

The controversy arose after an opinion piece she wrote for the Wall Street Journal said that, contrary to news reports, the Syrian opposition isn’t dominated by al Qaida-linked groups. Moderate groups, she wrote, have made significant gains in some areas and deserve outside military aid. The assertions were greeted with skepticism by other Syria experts.

The article identified her only by her institute affiliation, but the Journal later acknowledged that she also was the task force’s political director. The Journal described the group as providing “aid to the Syrian opposition” under contracts with the U.S. and British governments.

Kerry and McCain, R-Ariz., cited O’Bagy’s piece during congressional hearings last week in response to questions about whether missile strikes on Syria might empower al Qaida-affiliated fighters in the rebel movement.

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