The Turkish regime seems to have come up with a brand new conspiracy theory. Among the 104 admirals who signed the statement on the Montreux Convention, 10 remain in custody and their questioning has not yet begun.
The pro-government outlet Habertürk wrote that the retired admirals’ “international connections” were being investigated and that it is likely that their custody would be extended.
No one knows how the admirals’ case will be twisted and turned, but there is a chance that the AKP-MHP alliance will pitch this as a new “coup attempt”.
In fact, Ali Babacan, the leader of the opposition DEVA believes that the retired admirals handed a new polarization theme to the government on a golden plate.
“The government might say ‘if you don’t support Kanal Istanbul, you are supporting the admirals’ coup attempt’”, he remarked on Monday on FoxTV.
While this theory might seem far-fetched, in a context in which the rule of law does not prevail and society is deeply polarized, it is not unlikely that President Erdoğan would use this a chance to target opposition parties.
First, the retired admirals “concern” on withdrawing from the Montreux Convention was part of the Kanal Istanbul debate, which was seen as a move to withdraw from international conventions.
Second, opposition parties, especially CHP Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, are campaigning against the Kanal Istanbul project, deeming it “the multiplex betrayal project of Istanbul”. İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener criticizes the project, but she also discussed the possibility of holding a referendum over it.
It is noteworthy that Akşener was the only opposition leader who slammed the retired admirals’ statement as “quack”, upon which the admirals themselves filed a lawsuit against her and MHP leader Bahçeli.
Third, Kanal Istanbul is a hot issue for the forthcoming elections, just like the Istanbul Convention. No wonder President Erdoğan announced on Wednesday that Turkey had completed preparations for Kanal Istanbul and would kick-start the project this summer.
President Erdoğan’s delirious project “Kanal Istanbul” will start at a time when the country’s economy is stumbling and mired in the pandemic. Erdoğan once again presents it as a salutary measure for the economy, which relies heavily on the construction sector.
However, such a grand project requires colossal funding. The official statement maintains it will cost 75 billion Turkish liras (9.2 million dollars) whereas journalist Çiğdem Toker found out a different figure: in 2018, the Ministry of Transportation and Substructure presented the cost of the project as 20 billion dollars.
The Kanal Istanbul advertorials are running in Qatar and China for investors. Istanbul is on sale. Communications Director Fahrettin Altun proudly tweeted a video about it in Chinese.
Sözcü columnist Serpil Yılmaz wrote that the Chinese Bank ICBC Turkey and the British Bank HSBC would mainly finance the project. Yılmaz also points out that China is willing to invest 30 million dollars for Canal Istanbul, which will be a part of their Belt and Road Initiative.
The recent visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Ankara on March 25 entailed a list of subjects. The priority was the financing of Kanal Istanbul according to the state-owned Turkish TV channel TGRT.
Aside from those financing prospects and political quarrels, the main problem of Kanal Istanbul lays elsewhere: once the project starts, it will have a grave impact on the ecology and denizens of Istanbul. The plan is to build more houses, create another “Istanbul”, and the canal is just a tool to that end.
The city, which hosts 20 million inhabitants, has already lost so much of its precious habitat, air and water supply, which are essential to combat the climate crisis.
Note: A good read on the impact of the Kanal Istanbul by National Geographic can be found here.