A prominent pro-Syrian intervention expert, cited by both Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sec. of State John Kerry, lied about her academic credentials and failed to disclose her ties to rebel groups in the embattled republic. According to Buzzfeed, the Institute for the Study of War, a non-partisan Washington think tank, fired Elizabeth O’Bagy on Tuesday after finding out she lied about earning a Ph.D. from Georgetown, University in Washington.
On Wednesday, the Institute for the Study of War website said, “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.”
O’Bagy wrote to Buzzfeed’s Susannah George via email, “I was just fired from ISW and I’m no longer legally allowed to discuss my employment with them or affiliate it any way.”
An op-ed piece by O’Bagy published in the Wall Street Journal drew fire over O’Bagy’s failure to disclose her ties to rebel groups in Syria. In the Journal piece, she wrote that she has spent “hundreds of hours” in Syria in the company of various rebel factions arrayed against Pres. Bashar al-Assad.
“Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al Qaeda die-hards,” O’Bagy asserted.
Sen. McCain read a portion of her op-ed piece aloud on the Senate floor to advocate for U.S. intervention. Sec. of State Kerry called her argument in the piece “very interesting” and urged members of Congress to read it.
After the article was published on Aug. 30, it came to light that she is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a lobbying group that facilitates contract negotiations involving the U.S. and British governments and other agencies which provide aid to Syrian rebels. The Task Force is still in the process of being certified a 501(c)3 nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service.
Mouaz Moustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, praised O’Bagy’s work to Buzzfeed, saying, “Elizabeth is one of the best experts on Syria and her field work inside Syria along with her extensive networks on the ground makes her one of few people that can help inform policy makers on the reality on the ground.”
O’Bagy insisted that her work as a journalist is independent of her financial affiliations in the region.
“My research is completely separate” she said to George in a pre-firing interview. “Every journalist and every researcher goes into the conflict with their own background and their own ideas.”
UPDATE: O’Bagy received a Master of Arts in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, according to Politico. She said she also submitted and defended a dissertation, but was still waiting to receive a Ph.D. from the university.
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