Nation & World News

From Anonymous To Media Star To Unemployed In A Week

By Greg Myre on September 12th, 2013

If you’re following the Syrian debate, there’s a good chance you’ve come across Elizabeth O’Bagy, an analyst on the Syrian war, who went from obscure think tank analyst to media darling to unemployed in roughly a week.

Here’s how she did it.

O’Bagy, 26, was a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. Her specialty, the Syrian rebels, received only periodic flickers of attention.

Then came the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria, followed by President Obama’s declared intent to carry out a military strike in Syria.

Suddenly, O’Bagy, who has spent considerable time with the rebels, was a very hot commodity. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know more about the rebels.

In an Aug. 30 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, O’Bagy challenged the conventional wisdom that the rebel forces are increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists.

“Moderate opposition forces — a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army — continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime,” she wrote.

Overnight, O’Bagy was a fixture on news programs, offering her take on the Syrian war, which included a Sept. 6 interview on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Her comments often sparked a strong response, pro and con. Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain both favorably cited her work during congressional hearings. Critics claimed she was helping push the U.S. into a Middle East quagmire.

Then, as quickly as her star rose, a backlash began to emerge.

In an interview on Fox News and in other appearances, she came under criticism for serving as a both an independent analyst at her institute and for working on a contractual basis with an advocacy group that supports the Syrian opposition, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. That group subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition.

O’Bagy insisted there was no conflict.

“I have never tried to hide that Ive worked closely with opposition & rebel commanders,” she said on Twitter. “Thats what allows me to travel more safely in Syria.”

“I’m not trying to trick America here. I’m just trying to show a different side to the conflict that few people have the chance to see,” she added, according to Politico.

But on Wednesday, O’Bagy was fired for another reason: The Institute for the Study of War said she had falsely claimed a Ph.D. in Arab studies.

“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 institute said in a statement. “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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