The Syrian Emergency Task Force, the pro-rebel lobbying outfit that employs widely quoted intervention advocate Elizabeth O’Bagy as its political director, receives funding from the U.S. Department of State and related government contractors.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller earlier last week, O’Bagy explained how she got paid. O’Bagy has been roundly condemned for working for a pro-Syrian lobbying group at the same time she was casting the Syrian rebels in a positive light. She works as an analyst at the neoconservative think tank, the Institute for the Study of War.
“Most of the contracts that I’ve been a part of through the Task Force have been through CSO, which is the Conflict and Stabilization Office[sic],” O’Bagy told The Daily Caller. O’Bagy was likely referring to the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, a State Department-funded organization.
“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.”
How much she makes is “completely dependent on the contract,” says O’Bagy. “Usually, they [the SETF] kind of write in a specific fee. So it’s not a percentage of the contract, but it’s like I get, just off the top of my head, like two thousand dollars to help implement this project. And then I just get that standard contracting fee. And I actually get a 1099.”
State Department contracting firms like “ARK [Access Resources Knowledge], Chemonics, Creative [Associates International]—a number of the big contractors” set up the contracts and pay the Syrian Emergency Task Force, O’Bagy told TheDC.
With each contract, O’Bagy made more money. This revelation raises serious questions about her incentives to support American involvement in Syria. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain cited O’Bagy’s work in the push for military action but did not disclose her ties to the rebel groups.
When asked about the potential conflict of interest, O’Bagy said she was working for the Syrian people.
“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. I literally could not go there without trying to use my knowledge for the betterment of these various humanitarian aid programs,” she told TheDC.
O’Bagy, whose Georgetown MA/PhD focuses on Arab women’s issue, explained that the work had been helpful to her dissertation, which she has written but not yet defended.
While John McCain has called her “doctor,” she isn’t one technically. “You can call me doctor, if you want,” O’Bagy said. She graduated Georgetown in 2013. The U.S. government has spent over a $1 billion on aid to the Syrian rebels, with nearly half going to the Department of State, which is used for “institution building,” and the other half going to USAID, which is used for diaspora community relations.