Washington News Forum

*****We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves; that is our only commitment to others. John F. Kennedy***** ****** Email: newsfromwashington@yahoo.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Interview with Michael Rubin (On Israel, Turkey and War in Iraq)

Aydinlik Newspaper and Ulusal Kanal TV

Tugrul Keskingoren

August 15, 2004

Michael Rubin is one of the youngest neoconservative figures to gain prominence within the George W. Bush administration. A Yale graduate whose dissertation focused on modern Iran, Rubin has traveled extensively in Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan. Rubin has written one book, Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (2001), and has published numerous articles in such neoconservative publications as the New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem Post, Commentary, and Middle East Quarterly. Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, having recently served 18 months in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as an Iraq and Iran advisor, during which time he was also seconded to the Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] governance team. After his work with OSP and the Provisional Authority, Rubin has returned to the neocon think tank community, resuming his associations with AEI, Middle East Forum, and the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs. He is part of the speakers’ bureau of the neocon public relations agency, Benador Associates, which says that Rubin “speaks widely to both military and non-military audiences in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.” Rubin sits on the three-member advisory board of the Middle East Quarterly, which is copublished by the Middle East Forum and the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon. He holds Ph.D. from Yale University.

Tugrul Keskingoren: There is a public perception (from Government officials to ordinary citizens) in Turkey that the majority of the Turkish population believes the Jewish lobby and/or Israel supports an independent Kurdish State in Northern Iraq. Do you think this is a reality or a fallacy/conspiracy?

Michael Rubin: The public perception in Turkey is simply wrong. It is based more on
conspiracy and deliberate spin from a few politicians than on fact. The Israelis keep aloof from the Kurds because they value their relations with Turkey too much. The Kurds on the other hand, are so thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian agents that they could not host Israelis without serious consequence. The irony is that the Turkish press, by perpetuating the false rumor, risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving Israel
away from Turkey and toward other partners.

Keskingoren: As far as I understand from your response, if I am wrong please correct
me, you are saying the Turkish media is responsible for the tension between Turkey and Israel. How about the American media, such as journalist Seymour Hersh who wrote an article, Plan B on June 30th in the New Yorker Magazine. He says: "Turkish sources confidentially report that the Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state." The source of this "confidential report" is Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Michael Rubin: I am saying that the mainstream Turkish media picked up unfounded
allegations that simply were not true. According to the June 24 issue of Cumhuriyet, Gul was the source for Hersh's claim. Most American papers did not follow Hersh's allegations seriously because he did not name sources. When sources insist on annymity, usually they have something to hide. Hersh does not have the credibility in the United
States that he has in Turkey. Most journalists and politicians realize that Hersh makes allegations first, and then tries to find evidence.

Keskingoren: In your article, “Talking Turkey,” you mentioned that, "one prominent AKP member told me, we are a Muslim party and Powell called us a Muslim democracy. We know he chooses his words carefully." Do you think Powell chooses his words carefully? or is this another case of mincing words? Is Turkey an Islamic democracy or is the majority of the population Muslim?

Michael Rubin: In this case, Powell did not choose his words carefully. Powell doesn't
know a lot about Turkey; he depends on State Department speechwriters. Many don't know Turkey either, and try to infuse Powell's speeches with well-meaning platitudes. They simply didn't understand the sensitivity. I've both lived outside the United States, and worked at the heart of the American government. Many non-Americans believe that the U.S. is organized and has a plan, but the reality is that, on a day-to-day level, the U.S.
government is chaotic. This is especially true with this administration because National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice doesn't make sure that the President's policy is carried out. Some National Security Council staffers openly criticize the President.

Keskingoren: Basically, you are saying that the American government does not have an
organized national security structure, and it is very chaotic. I believe that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is a cold war policy maker and she cannot understand the globalization process and national security. This is also the case with other neocons/cold war policy makers. Do you agree that these policy makers see the Islamic world as an enemy of the US?

Michael Rubin: No, it's two different things. From the inside, the American government is always chaotic. The Senate does one thing, the State epartment another, and the Defense Department a third. Not every word is scripted. However, the problem gets worse when the National Security Council doesn't adequately coordinate. Condoleezza Rice is a very smart woman and, while I sometimes thinks she has poor instincts, that doesn't mean she doesn't understand issues. I absolutely disagree that neo-conservative sor other policy makers see the Islamic World as enemies of the United States. If you actually look at what neo-conservatives say, rather than what Yeni Safak says they say, then you'd find that they tend to believe much more in human rights having a role inf oreign policy. But, at the same time, I'd argue that many so-called political Islamists aren't representative of the Islamic World, but more representative of Saudi Arabia.

Keskingoren: You said that neocons tend to believe much more in human rights having a role in foreign policy. In that case, why does the Bush administration support Islam Kerimov(Uzbekistan) or Ilhan Aliyev (Azerbaijan) governments? I think they are the most repressive governments in the world and they have terrible human rights record according to the state department.

Michael Rubin: Why are you assuming that neo-conservatives are on top in the Bush administration?

Keskingoren: Last year in March, the Turkish parliament rejected the US deployment oftroops in Turkey, just before the Iraq War started. After this decision, there was no relation or contact between Pentagon and Turkish General staff for over six months. The 60 year steady relationship/friendship between Turkey and the US was damaged. Since then, Turkey has been looking for another political partner/country to built a military relationship with? (I am not talking about the EU) Do you think the friendship is over or how can it be repaired?

Michael Rubin: First of all, there was a great deal of contact between the Turkish General Staff and the U.S. Defense Department following the vote. I was at the Pentagon at the time and participated in some of the contacts. Most certainly, the friendship between Turkey and the United States continues. Our friendship is based on common notions of democracy, and not conditional on the purchase of airplanes or other commercial deals. I worry, however, that, especially in Turkey, some politicians are attacking the relationship for short-term political gain. The problem is that it takes a lot longer to build relationships than to break them down.


Post a Comment

<< Home