Elizabeth O’Bagy, a young researcher with the Institute for the Study of War, helped bring America to the brink of war in 2013. Making fraudulent claims of having obtained a PhD, she was a fervent supporter of military intervention in Syria after she allegedly met with Syrian rebel groups. Her public testimony was fawned over by Senator John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry, who used her fake credentials to backstop their march toward another military action in the Middle East. While portraying herself as an unbiased researcher, O’Bagy was also doing paid work for a pro-Syrian rebel lobbyist group called the Syrian Emergency Task Force. When O’Bagy was exposed, the house of cards came crumbling down. O’Bagy was fired from the Institute for the Study of War, but was quickly hired as a legislative assistant by Senator McCain.

Elizabeth O’Bagy

The O’Bagy incident is just one of many bizarre cases of pseudo-intellectuals pounding on their war drums for further military interventions around the world. Their fever dreams have dire consequences for American foreign policy, pushing us further away from our own national interests and toward nonsensical, ill-conceived wars of choice. In the Western media, a constellation of think tank fellows and public relations firms continue to do the same, advocating for U.S. military action, no-fly zones, and the arming of allegedly moderate rebels in Syria.

The new warmongers

Charles Lister is one of the more prominent voices in the media pushing for U.S.-led meddling in the protracted and complicated Syrian Civil War. Taking a dim view of the Assad regime, along with their Russian and Iranian sponsors, Lister writes that the United States has placed too heavy an emphasis on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), arguing that we must arm and equip Arab rebel groups in order to defeat ISIS and ultimately institute regime change in Syria.

Graduating St. Andrews University with a masters degree in international affairs, Lister landed a job at Brookings Doha, where he worked alongside Salman Shaikh, who previously worked as the director of policy and research for Sheikha mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned. Al Missned is a third wife of the former Emir of Qatar. Shaikh left Brookings Doha and started the Shaikh Group, which sponsors what they call the Track II Syria Initiative, which Lister joined. The Track II initiative is a dialog that brings together the major players in the Syrian conflict, such as Russia, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, but apparently not the government of the country in which the conflict is taking place.

Charles Lister

Now a fellow at the Middle East Institute, Lister advocates for the arming and supporting of Ahrar al-Sham in Syria, arguing that there are mainstream and moderate elements within the jihadi group that need to be mobilized in order to counter the Assad regime. Lister rightly argues that the Kurdish YPG cannot save Syria from itself, as most of the country is Arab. The Kurds have no interest in fighting for Arab areas and have no historical or cultural claim to them.  In short, the locals would see them as an occupational force. On that note, Lister writes that we have to “acknowledge the role that existing mainstream opposition groups will need to play in assuming at least a shared responsibility for protecting Sunni Arab-populated territory captured from ISIS.” However, he goes on to say that those very opposition groups are “far from perfect.”

“Ahrar al-Sham thus set about asserting its own intent to influence the governance of ‘liberated’ areas of Idlib, while intensifying its public outreach to the West, through a series of high-profile op-eds,” Lister wrote, referencing an article in the Washington Post written by Labib al Nahhas, the Ahrar al-Sham spokesperson. In the same paper, Lister cites his private interviews with rebel leaders, and considering some of his bromance Tweets about Nahhas, it seems highly probable that Lister is placing his rebel friend’s op-eds in major American media outlets.


These types of rebel groups “may not necessarily be the kind of opposition that we wanted, but it has a very significant constituency in Syria,” Lister said in an interview, couching his support for groups like Ahrar al-Sham, “…so these are not necessarily people we would want as our allies but we have to acknowledge that these are Syrians and if there is going to be a political solution and they are not involved than we will be creating more of a mess than there already is.”