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Senator McCain Mentions Elizabeth O'Bagy's Op-Ed During Syria Foreign Relations Hearings

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Published on Sep 3, 2013

SEN. MCCAIN: Secretary Kerry -- John, over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran an important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O'Bagy -- I hope you saw it -- a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, spent a great deal of time inside Syria, including just this month.

And I want to read her assessment of the situation on the ground. And I quote the story. "The conventional wisdom holds that the extremist elements are completely mixed in with the more moderate rebel groups; this isn't the case. Moderates and extremists wield control over distinct territory. Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely or even predominately by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards. The jihadists pouring into Syria from countries like Iraq and Lebanon are not flocking to the front lines. Instead, they are concentrating their efforts on consolidating control in the northern rebel-held areas of the country. Moderate opposition forces -- a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army -- continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime. While traveling with some of these Free Syrian Army battalions, I've watched them defend Alawi and Christian villages from government forces and extremist groups. They've demonstrated a willingness to submit to civilian authority, working closely with local administrative councils, and they've struggled to ensure that their fight against Assad will pave the way for a flourishing civil society."

John, do you agree with Dr. O'Bagy's assessment of the opposition?

SEC. KERRY: I agree with most of that. They have changed significantly. They have improved, and as I said earlier, the fundamentals of Syria are secular, and I believe, will stay that way.

SEN. MCCAIN: And I think it's very important to point out, again, as you just said -- it's a secular state. They would reject radical Islamists, and they, in some cases -- in the areas in which they have control, the people are demonstrating against them, is the information I have.

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