Why Senator McCain Hired Discredited Syrian Analyst

Article Source: rachel@shymanstrategies.com

Article Source: rachel@shymanstrategies.com

In the business world, a researcher like Elizabeth O’Bagy, who was fired for lying about her credentials and gave an unrealistically rosy assessment of the Syrian rebels (while doing business with those same rebels), would have trouble finding work.

But the U.S. government isn’t a business. And so, Ms. O’Bagy, only days after being the subject of negative press nationwide, has found a new job: As a  legislative assistant for Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

O’Bagy received the negative attention after it was discovered that she inflated her resume (claiming falsely that she held  a PhD) as well as failing to be transparent about her work with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an Islamist group that works with the Syrian rebels. In addition, The Clarion Project discovered that she said on Twitter that she doesn’t consider Islamists to be extremists.

The credibility of her distinctions between moderates and extremists should have been questioned when she provided a sworn affidavit defending Eric Harroun, an American who was charged with fighting alongside Al-Qaeda in Syria. O’Bagy argued that he joined a non-Al-Qaeda group named the Al-Aqsa Islamic Brigades. (Harroun later entered into a plea agreement based on another charge.)

Regardless of whether the group is linked to Al-Qaeda or not, FoxNews.com points out that it is anti-American. O’Bagy stated that she reviewed its Facebook page and found no evidence that it is “jihadist in orientation.” However, FOX News found extremist images on the page, including a photo of the U.S. Capitol in flames.

Further, when Clarion reviewed the YouTube page of the Syrian Emergency Task Force’s executive director, Mouaz Moustafa, videos openly supportive of Hamas were found. In addition, other outlets found tweets where Moustafa said he’d rather be called an Al-Qaeda terrorist than a supporter of Israel.

Evidence like this renders O’Bagy’s assessments — which were cited by McCain and Secretary of State Kerry — virtually meaningless and, more importantly, deceptively optimistic.

Yet O’Bagy’s employment by McCain is fitting. In March 2012, the Clarion Project reported how McCain and his close friend, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), had been swooned by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The two took a trip to Egypt to discuss the prosecution of American NGO workers. They met with Brotherhood leaders who managed to change their opinions by simply telling them what they wanted to hear (an often-used tactic by the notoriously slick group).

“We are encouraged by the constructive role played over the past week by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party,” McCain was quoted as saying.

“I was very apprehensive when I heard the [Egyptian] election results. But after visiting and talking with the Muslim Brotherhood, I am hopeful that … we can have a relationship with Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood is a strong political voice,” said Graham.

The Brotherhood quickly responded by denying McCain’s claim that it was helping to secure the Americans’ release.

When the Egyptian military heeded the request of tens of millions Egyptians and toppled President Morsi, McCain condemned the move as a “coup” and demanded that U.S. aid be cut off – as did the Muslim Brotherhood and its derivatives in the U.S.

McCain used to be known as someone who grasped the ideology of radical Islam, as someone who knew the ideology as a whole had to be dealt with. McCain was a leading proponent of a strategy to use soft power to defeat Islamism, as the West did to defeat the communism of the Soviet Union.

Now, he is praising the Muslim Brotherhood and hiring an expert on Syria who judges Islamists separately from Al-Qaeda, as if there is no common bond.

McCain’s hiring of O’Bagy is the final nail in the coffin for his credibility – both for hiring a proven liar and understanding the reality and threat of Islamism. 


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.