When former U.S. Defense Department official Michael Rubin mentioned in his article published on the American Enterprise Institute's (AEI) website last year, a possible military takeover in Turkey, everyone - including myself - thought it was a joke, or a silly protest by an angry Middle East expert who detests President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan very much.
Obviously, we were wrong. Four months later, his main argument in the article titled, "Could there be a coup in Turkey?" became a reality. Rubin said in his article that he was asking the coup question "in the realm of analysis, rather than advocacy." Yet he later changed his opinion and published another article on the night of the coup in July 15, in which he tried to argue that a military intervention could mean hope for Turkey.
Rubin was quick to change his narrative on the coup too. As soon as he realized that it was a failed attempt, he produced a number of articles in which he claimed it was Erdoğan who engineered the coup in order to monopolize the power and purge his opponents. This view was of course shared only by the followers of Pennsylvania-based controversial cult leader Fetullah Gülen. Needless to say, there are Turkish court cases that provide tangible evidence on Gülen and his group as the leading perpetrators of the coup.
More than a year after the coup, early this month, Rubin came up with another "analysis" on Turkey. This time he was talking about the possibility of Erdoğan's death. For the first time since the coup took place, he confessed that his prophecy was not just an analysis, but actually, there were indeed some sources who "tipped him off" several months before it occurred that a "coup might be in the works."
Who were these sources that knew better than Turkish and even U.S. intelligence agencies, which failed to see that there were preparations for a coup? I asked these questions to Rubin in two emails, but he is yet to respond.
The logical answer might be his flourishing ties with Gülenists. To his credit, Rubin was an early critic of Gülen and his followers. In May 2015, in an article published by the Commentary magazine, Rubin publicly changed his opinion on Gülen. He apologized for the fact that he once speculated that Gülen's return to Turkey could mirror late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's return to Tehran. He continued, "Does that mean I endorse the movement? No, I do not. But I am willing to listen to them."
He might have indeed listened to them. Last January, Ali Ünal, a former senior columnist for Gülen's propaganda arm Zaman daily, voluntarily provided a testimony for the Turkish Parliament's Coup Attempt Investigation Commission, and alleged that he saw Rubin in Gülen's compound in Pennsylvania in June 2015, literally a month after Rubin's public declaration on his willingness to meet Gülenists. In response to this, Rubin ironically tweeted that he had a newborn to take care of, so he was not in Gülen's compound on that date. I have asked whether he ever visited Gülen, Rubin again did not respond.
However, one thing that is clear about Rubin is that he is in frequent contact with a former Gülenist police chief, Ahmet Sait Yayla. In more than couple of analyses, Rubin referenced him as a reliable source on Turkish intelligence and police affairs. Yayla is a senior name in Gülenist ranks, specifically mentioned by Turkey's temporary arrest request on Fetullah Gülen for his activities in and outside of the United States. Yayla nowadays mispresents himself as a hero police officer who had to leave Turkey for his crackdown on Daesh.
Rubin also hosted Yayla for a roundtable meeting at the AEI, in which Yayla propagated about the coup attempt in a way placing suspicions on its victim, Erdoğan. He also blamed Turkey for providing weapons to Daesh, and working with Iran behind closed doors.
I know no Turkish analyst or former defense official, who, like Rubin, promotes a coup attempt in another NATO ally as a positive development, and cooperates with possible suspects who are believed to be connected to the ring leader.