World

Meet the ‘moderate’ Syrian sheikh young think tanker wants us to adopt

The State Department-funded Syrian Emergency Task Force and Elizabeth O’Bagy backed an anti-Semitic, anti-Shiite imam for presidency of the Syrian rebels.

O’Bagy ran into trouble earlier this month after The Daily Caller revealed her dual role as a pundit urging war on the Assad regime in Syria and a paid contractor for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a pro-rebel front group. But while she still held a position at a connected Washington, DC think tank, O’Bagy strongly supported the anti-Semitic, anti-Shiite Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib for a leadership position in an imaginary conquered Syria.

“Empowering a unified and accountable leadership for the opposition, led politically by SOC President Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib and militarily by SMC Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss, is not only important from a command and control perspective,” O’Bagy wrote in a March 2013 report on the Free Syrian Army for the Institute for the Study of War. “This structure, if developed properly, can create a framework for rebuilding Syria’s security and governing institutions in order to fill the power vacuum left by Assad’s fall and help to aid in a secure and stable Syria.”

Khatib resigned that very March, serving only five months in office and criticizing the restrictions foreign donors—principally from Qatar and Saudi Arabia—placed on aid.

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Khatib’s anti-moderate views were well known even before his election in November 2012. His website praises Saddam Hussein for “terrifying the Jews,” according to London-based journalist Mohanad Hage Ali writing in Foreign Policy in 2012. The imam-turned-politician “also published others’ anti-Semitic observations on his site,” Ali wrote. “In one article, written by Abdul Salam Basiouni, Jews are described as ‘gold worshippers.’ Finally, in an obituary of a Gaza sheikh copied from IslamSyria, Jews are dubbed ‘the enemies of God.’”

Though he promised pluralism in Syria once he was elected, Khatib has also been quoted calling the Shiite minority liars and an Arabic slur.

Despite these views, Secretary John Kerry, who met with Khatib in Rome in February, approved giving more than $60 million in aid to the Syrian rebels.

Khatib isn’t the only person linked to the Syrian Emergency Task Force with radical views. Mouaz Moustapha, pictured here with Khatib, is the group’s executive director.

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Moustafa is a Palestinian Arab and self-described “freelance revolutionary” was formerly Director of the Libyan Council of North America. Mousafa hired O’Bagy as the SETF’s political director.

SETF’s board members include Dr. Jihad Qaddour, who  is also a trustee of a Muslim Brotherhood front group called the  Muslim American Society. Another board member, Bassam Estwani was the imam  of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, which was Al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki’s  former mosque and a front for Hamas, according to the Treasury Department. Board  member Zaher Sahoul is chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of  Chicago, an organization with terrorist links which is  involved in organizing a boycott of Israel.