Researcher Fired: Syria Expert Cited by Kerry, McCain Lacks Degree

Thursday, 12 Sep 2013 11:51 AM

By Michael Mullins

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An expert on Syria whose work was recently cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain in arguing their cases on the international crisis has been canned because her credentials didn't check out.

Researcher Elizabeth O'Bagy was fired from her post at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) after it was learned that she had reportedly falsified her claim of having received a Ph.D. from Georgetown University.

"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. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O'Bagy's employment, effective immediately," the statement read.

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Following O'Bagy's dismissal, ISW's President Kim Kagan told Reuters described the incident as "a terrible tragedy," adding "I stand by her assessments and her work."

In recent weeks O'Bagy had appeared on CNN, Fox News, and NPR among other media outlets in which she routinely advocated for U.S. intervention to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians.

In the segments, O'Bagy, who claimed to have made several trips back and forth to Syria to assess the conflict in recent months, routinely argued the rebel forces were largely moderate and only minimal numbers of those fighting al-Assad were affiliated with radical jihadists.

It was later discovered that O'Bagy, who claimed to be objective and was generally introduced as an analyst, was in fact the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit rebel support group based in Washington D.C.

Before her affiliation with the Syrian Emergency Task Force became widely known, O'Bagy had published a column in The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 30, where she wrote, "The war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al Qaeda die-hards."

O'Bagy's observations were subsequently cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in their arguments that the U.S. should strike the al-Assad regime.

Last May, O'Bagy and others at the Syrian Emergency Task Force organized a short trip by McCain into Syria to meet with General Salim Idriss, commander of the Free Syrian Army, Reuters noted.

Though O’Bagy has yet to respond publicly to her dismissal from the Institute for the Study of War, which the Daily Caller describes as a "neoconservative think tank," the 26-year-old defended her analysis of the Syrian conflict and claimed she never receive a salary from the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

"My salary comes from the Institute for the Study of War. I don’t get a salary from working with the Task Force," O’Bagy said. "I get paid contracting fees for very specific contracts."

When asked about the potential conflict of interest, O’Bagy said she was working for the Syrian people, the Daily Caller noted.

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"Frankly I mean the humanitarian crisis is just so horrific that I honestly could not spend significant amounts of time there without trying to contribute to the humanitarian situation in one way or another and that’s just kind of me as a human being," O’Bagy told the Daily Caller. "I literally could not go there without trying to use my knowledge for the betterment of these various humanitarian aid programs."

Related stories:

Obama: Syria's Actions Not 'Imminent, Direct Threat' to US

Charlie Rangel: Obama's Handling of Syria 'Embarrassing'

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