Turkey has always been a luring subject for politicians, academics and journalists looking for attention. One of those fierce and obsessive voices against Turkey is Michael Rubin.
But who is this “pudgy-faced boy,” as investigative journalist Robert Dreyfus calls him, occasionally aiming at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other Turkish officials.
According to his resume, he is currently a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate Center for Civil-Military Relations and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.
Rubin also worked as a staff adviser for Iran and Iraq at the Pentagon between 2002 and 2004. He also lectured at Yale University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at three different universities in northern Iraq.
He gave a lecture titled “Asymmetrical Threat and Its Impact on International Security” in a symposium called “New Dimensions of the Security and the International Organizations” held by the Turkish Command of the Military Academies in 2007.
One can easily be mistaken about his expertise by looking into his resume, however, by reviewing some of his work, it is easy to understand that he is no more than a “puppet.”
Rubin is trying to convince his audience, especially his own country, the United States, that Turkey is not a reliable actor for the West anymore. Now that Joe Biden takes the lead in the U.S. presidency, Rubin may find a more convenient base to raise his neocon ideas.
In his article titled “Turkey is No Ally of the United States” at the public policy think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on Oct. 23, 2019, Rubin considers Turkey to be a “Russia’s trojan horse” in NATO and goes on to launch baseless allegations against Turkey, such as being an ally to Daesh, without being able to provide any concrete evidence.
Master of disinformation
However it is not surprising, as this is Rubin’s “modus operandi.” He takes a rumor and makes it appealing without bothering to support his arguments, like he did during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Dreyfus, who writes for the U.S. weekly magazine the Nation, stated in his article entitled “The Lie Factory” in 2004 in Mother Jones magazine that “Michael Rubin is one of the neocons who led the the U.S. to war with Iraq through misinformation and bogus intelligence.”
When covering a special story on the George W. Bush administration pushing disinformation, Dreyfus spoke to now-retired Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who said: “It was not intelligence, it was propaganda. They’d take a little bit of intelligence, make it sound much more exciting, usually by juxtaposition of two pieces that don’t belong together.”
Kwiatkowski added that “the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) made up horrifying stories about Iraq’s weapons and its ties to terrorist. In order to convince the American public to an unnecessary war, it was the job of OSP to provide the necessary arguments.” Rubin, as a part of that team, knows how to manufacture news to suit his agenda.
The New York Times revealed on Jan. 2, 2006, that Rubin had reviewed propaganda articles that had been produced for distribution to the media by the Lincoln Group PR firm, which had been hired by the Pentagon.
According to the Times, the Lincoln Group paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles about American soldiers. The Lincoln Group is also known for its poor interpretation of statements of Iranian leaders.
Fake news for sale
Not only the Americans believe he is a fraud, but the Somalis too.
In 2019, after meeting the Somaliland administration, Rubin suddenly became interested in the region and started to write several articles about Somalis and Somaliland.
Just looking at the headlines, and his hidden agenda behind the articles is clear. Some of these articles are entitled “U.S. Africa Policy Cannot Afford to Ignore Somaliland” on Feb. 26, 2019, in The National Interest, “the US and UN are Repeating Iraq-Style Mistakes in Somalia” on Feb. 19, 2019, in The Hill, “10 Questions Somalia’s Prime Minister Should Answer In Washington” on April 8, 2019, in the Washington Examiner and “U.S. Missteps in Somalia Benefit Our Enemies” on March 25, 2019, in National Review.
All of the articles were written to convince Washington to begin relations with Somaliland. As always, with little knowledge of the region, he repeats his client’s arguments without fact checking.
Somali sources claim Rubin’s article in the Washington Examiner entitled “Somalia’s President is No Ally Against Terrorism” on July 28, 2019, in which he mentions video footage portraying Somali leaders as irresponsible, is based on a video that had been edited and translated into English before being sent to Rubin.
The same sources shared that Rubin gets $50,000 per month to change U.S. lawmakers’ opinions by propounding negative propaganda against the Somali government.
Fetullah Gülen’s Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) had many schools in Somaliland in the past; it could be that the group recommended Rubin as an “experienced disinformation asset” to Somaliland.
Anti-Semitic cult leader
Rubin, being inconsistent in his own arguments, befriended his one-time enemy Gülen after 2015.
He used to call Gülen an “anti-Semitic Turkish cult leader,” accusing him of continuing an inconsistent approach to secularism and equating secularism with fascism.
What changed his mind, in his own words, was “the fact that Gülen is now critical of Erdoğan.”
His hatred toward Erdoğan lies in the fundamentals of his good relations with Gülen and his followers. As he apologizes to Gülen in his article “Reconsidering Fethullah Gulen” in Commentary Magazine on May 20, 2015, and befriends Gülenists, it becomes easier for him to launch false allegations at Erdoğan with the help of his new friends.
Ali Ünal, a Turkish journalist who worked in FETÖ’s now-dissolved Zaman newspaper, stated in his confession that he witnessed Rubin’s visit to Gülen’s residence in Pennsylvania in June 2015 – explaining the sudden change in Rubin’s perception of Gülen.
The coup whisperer
However, it is not difficult to see the connection. Like Lord Varys’ “little birds” in Game of Thrones, he envoys a message of a possible coup in Turkey, only a few months before the failed coup attempt.
In his article, “Will There Be a Coup Against Erdogan in Turkey,” in Newsweek on March 24, 2016, he claimed that there would be a coup in Turkey soon. Unless he is a psychic, it is clear he had inside information from the perpetrators, that is to say, Gülen and FETÖ.
Rubin doesn’t even bother to hide the connection. At the time this article was written, two of the 46 accounts he is following belong to FETÖ members: Ahmet Yayla, the fugitive former police officer, and Ilhan Tanır from the media branch of the group. Rubin echoes the arguments of these Gülenists in every article or interview about Turkey.
In an interview with Ahval News, one of the Gülenist media assets supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in September 2020, just before the U.S. elections, Rubin was still praising Gülen and Gülenists, describing them as being more akin to Anatolian Sufism and accusing Erdoğan of being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It is no surprise the executive editor of Ahval News, Tanır, is a friend.
In a podcast interview with Elan Journo in New Ideal on Sept. 30, 2020, entitled “How Turkey Went From Secular To Islamic Authoritarianism,” Rubin makes the same intentional comparisons, linking Gülen’s Islam closer to Sufism, and Erdoğan’s Islam to the Muslim Brotherhood several times, all the while forgetting his own arguments in 2008, accusing Gülen of planning to establish an Islamic state in Turkey, like Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran.
It is clear that his assumptions are wrong and aim to convince those who are not well-informed about Turkey, as in the same interview he claims that “Turks refuse to classify Islamic State in their official listings of terrorism.”
If he had been an expert on Turkey as he claimed to be, with a little research that even little children can do on the internet, he would have learned that Turkey, following a determined fight against Daesh, recognizes it as a terrorist organization.
His obsession with Turkey continues with the arguments of Gülen and FETÖ after 2015, as in his every article or interview about Turkey, he brings the conversation around his now-friend Gülen and idolizes him.
This time Gülen holds his leash. The enemy is common, the rhetoric is the same and Rubin continues to bark the words prompted by his Gülenist friends.
The only audiences he can convince are the supporters of Gülen, the PKK and those who consider Turkey an enemy. Rubin has made a career out of propaganda and is an expert in “falsified, baseless analysis.” If anyone is looking for a pawn to use against Turkey, he comes highly recommended.
*Freelance op-ed contributor