The Cable

Rick Perry doubles down on Turkey terrorism charge

After Turkey's Foreign Ministry lashed out at GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry for saying that Turkey is led by "Islamic terrorists," the Perry campaign doubled down on those remarks and told The Cable the incident shows why Perry is bolder than President Barack Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney on foreign policy.

"Governor Perry will not apologize because he doesn't think the comments merit an apology. He will not back down from the comments," Perry's top foreign policy advisor Victoria Coates told The Cable on Tuesday.

Coates was reacting to the Turkey's statement that it "strongly condemned" Perry's comments at Monday's GOP presidential debate, when Perry said Turkey was ruled by "what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists." He continued by saying, "Not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it's time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it."

"Turkey joined NATO while the governor was still 2 years old," the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said. "It is a member that has made important contributions to the trans-Atlantic alliance's conflict-full history. It is among countries that are at the front lines in the fight against terrorism."

Perry himself defended the comments Tuesday afternoon. "This is a country that's got some explaining to do to the United States," Perry told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "The idea that [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's regime has somehow or other earned our respect is not correct."

Coates pointed to the question by Fox News Channel's Bret Baier, which referred to the increased murder rate of women in Turkey, the lack of press freedom, and Turkey's support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

"The key to the whole business is to look at the question and the way it was asked," she said. "It's an important distinction that what [Perry is] saying is that the Turkish leadership is engaging in behavior that many people would associate with Islamic terrorists."

She added that Perry, who lived in Turkey as an Air Force pilot decades ago, would prefer to have a good relationship with Ankara, but "the governor's point is that [Turkish bad behavior] is not going to get better if we ignore it."

So would Perry, if elected president, put Turkey on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Hamas supporters Iran and Syria? Not exactly.

"No, we would not list Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism. We don't have any evidence of them engaging in international terrorist acts," Coates explained. "I think we know they are extremely supportive of Hamas, but these things go in stages."

But what about the new U.S. missile defense installation in Turkey and the Obama administration's efforts to encourage Turkey to push for positive change in Syria?

"We need to be very mindful of how much responsibility we hand over for something as important as the missile defense sites," said Coates. "And up until recent days, Turkey has been quite close to Syria."

Coates then called out the Romney campaign for not yet weighing in on the issue.

"It is not untypical for Gov. Perry to be more forthright about situations like this than Gov. Romney. He has less concern for niceties and is more concerned with the national security of our country," she said.

The Obama administration is ultimately responsible for "appeasing unfortunate Turkish behavior" -- part of its larger foreign-policy flaw of pursuing engagement at all costs, according to the Perry campaign.

"It is a pattern of the Obama administration that [Gov. Perry] finds deeply concerning, that outreach and engagement is the goal, whereas Gov. Perry feels that furthering American interests is the goal."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner defended Turkey at Tuesday's press briefing and said Turkey is not run by Islamic terrorists.

"We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion," Toner said. "Turkey, as I said, is a strong partner in the region. We've seen it make a very courageous stand against what's going on in Syria, for example. It continues to play a very positive and constructive role in the region.  And it is, as often cited, an example of so-called Islamic democracy in action."

The Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

AFP/Getty Images

The Cable

Russian State TV bashes new U.S. ambassador

Apparently, this is Moscow's idea of rolling out the "red carpet": Russian state television today launched an all-out assault on new U.S. Ambassador Mike McFaul.

"The fact is that McFaul is not an expert on Russia. He is a specialist in a particular pure democracy promotion," read a report published on Russia 1, the channel that is run by the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK).

The Russian government was evidently displeased that McFaul met with human rights activists in his first official function at the Moscow embassy, where he was joined by visiting Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. The Russian media's public smear campaign against McFaul accused him of working on behalf of the "so-called democratic movement" in the country during the early 1990s, when he visited there on behalf of the National Democratic Institute -- an organization "known for its proximity to the U.S. intelligence services," according to the TV report.

The report then quotes from several of McFaul's writings and from The Cable's post on McFaul to accuse him of having an agenda of supporting Russian opposition groups in an attempt to destabilize the Russian government.

The hostile welcome represents a sharp rebuke to McFaul's message of openness and cooperation that he brought with him upon arriving in Moscow last week.

"As President Obama's representative in Russia, I believe my most important mission is to continue to help Russians understand who Americans are, what we stand for, and what we seek in our relationship with Russia and the Russian people," McFaul said in his video message to the Russian people, posted Jan. 15 on The Cable.

"The most important part of my job will be to foster more contact between the people of the United States and the people of Russia. I'm interested in not only meeting government officials, but people from other political parties and movements, businessmen and women, civil society activists, and regular Russians just like you."

The Russian state television report also criticized President Barack Obama for appointing McFaul because he is not a career diplomat. "This is the second case of the violation of this tradition over the past 30 years. A first exception was [former U.S. envoy to Russia] Bob Strauss, appointed by [former President George H.W.] Bush, which, again, was meant to serve the collapse of the Soviet Union, a characteristic detail," the report said.

The Russian State TV report then accused McFaul of writing hundreds of articles against once and future Russian President Vladimir Putin, and criticized McFaul's book, Russia's Unfinished Revolution.

"Has Mr. McFaul arrived in Russia to work on his specialty? That is, to finish the revolution?" the report asked. "It is hoped that [this stay in the embassy] will not be for Mr. McFaul, ‘the best time of his life.'"

Nothing like a winter welcome to Moscow...

AFP/Getty Images