The Turkish Minister of Interior Affairs, Süleyman Soylu, has been targeting the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality for some time now. As he targeted main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) stronghold, İstanbul, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu targeted Soylu in his parliamentary speech on December 5 as if he is regarding him as the soft spot of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu engaged in a row after the CHP leader posted a video accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of paving the way for the narcotics crisis in Türkiye, “trying to finance the current account deficit through drug money.”
Süleyman Soylu slammed the CHP leader, stating that the police force under the ministry carried out its biggest operation in “Republic’s history,” and Kılıçdaroğlu’s accusations are “nothing but dark propaganda.”
Speaking at the opening commentaries for the 2023 Budget talks, Kılıçdaroğlu addressed the Interior Minister and asked the following four questions:
1- How is it possible that all the suspects held after the operation, which you called the “biggest drug operation in history,” have been released? What business relationship does Soylu’s son have with the defendants who were named in the indictment? Did the Istanbul Police search Soylu’s son’s car because he rented it to the defendants?
2- How did the leader of the Serbian drug gang, which Soylu says was sent away from Türkiye, establish a life in the heart of Istanbul and manage drug activities from Istanbul? How did the rival gang members come to Turkey and kill him?
3- Who is the real owner of 5 tonnes of cocaine seized in Colombia? Why did Soylu resist cooperating with the authorities in Colombia?
4- Mustafa Çalışkan is a frank police chief. What is your problem with Mustafa Caliskan? Why are you banishing this person who is fighting FETO and drugs?
Instead of an answer: “He who does not prove is ignoble”
In response to Kılıçdaroğlu’s inquiries, Soylu posted the following message on his Twitter account:
“When Kılıçdaroğlu failed to prove his slander that the current account is financed with drugs, and his Jeremy Rifkin move did not attract enough attention, he is now trying to change the agenda by spreading slanders and rumors. If he does not prove his slander, Kılıçdaroğlu is ignoble,” Soylu said.
What is interesting here is that all of Kılıçdaroğlu’s allegations are related to anti-drug operations. Journalist Tolga Şardan wrote on T24 about the phone calls and money relations of luxury car dealership owner Nevzat Kaya and Engin Levent Soylu, who were mentioned in the aforementioned investigation in the indictment. The alleged money relationship was rejected by Kaya’s lawyers.
It was claimed that the removal of Mustafa Çalışkan from the Istanbul Police Department in 2020 was related to the search of Soylu’s son’s vehicle. Caliskan was taken onto the shelf as the Deputy Chief of Police with the method called “promotional liquidation,” but in the end he stayed in the bureaucracy, he could not be thrown out of the system.
Therefore, it is possible to conclude that Kılıçdaroğlu sees Soylu as Erdoğan’s soft spot and Soylu’s soft spot as drug operations.
The “soft spot”
Recently, Swedish STV television reporter asked President Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın whether Türkiye, which requested the extradition of persons wanted from Sweden on PKK and FETO charges, would also extradite 10 people wanted in Sweden on drug smuggling charges. Kalin said that no one can accuse Türkiye of being a haven for criminals and ended the interview. Kalin, who had just participated in the NATO membership talks of Sweden and Finland in Stockholm, did not expect such a question and was naturally disturbed.
Just before that interview, on November 29, Soylu had visited the United Arab Emirates, which he accused of being the co-financier of the July 15 2016 coup attempt with the United States, and praised the friendship between Turkey and the UAE. This visit was linked to the transfer of mafia leader Sedat Peker, who was literally obsessed with Soylu, to Türkiye.
The reason may not be Peker alone
Peker was the one who put forward the claim of 5 tonnes of cocaine originating from Colombia, just like the cocaine caught in a banana load in Mersin. However, developments show that Soylu’s visit to the UAE and then attending the national holiday invitation and cutting a cake in Ankara may not be related to Peker alone.
One of the most important drug operations of recent times was based in Dubai in November. In the operation carried out under the coordination of the European Union Police Organization EUROPOL, a “super cartel” linked to Western Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East was destroyed, 49 people were arrested, some of whom were in the “father” position, and more than 30 tonnes of cocaine were seized. Turkey was among the transit routes for this traffic.
There is also the Syria-Iran-Iraq dimension, the Afghanistan dimension. The influx of refugees is not our only problem with this geography. In the latest report of the Police, it is written that the PKK also took a share in the drug trade.
At least until the election
The fact that Soylu keeps on the agenda the allegation that PKK members are employed in Istanbul and Mersin Metropolitan municipalities shows that he chose this subject as the soft spot of the CHP. While doing this, his goal is to create a crack between the CHP and the IYI Party. As in other issues, his closest supporter is MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli.
Considering the indispensability of the People’s Alliance for President Erdoğan, it does not seem possible to consider Soylu the “weakest link” or “soft spot”. On the other hand, the discomfort caused by the fact that Soylu, who was shown as the closest person to the candidacy after Erdoğan in the AKP, is exposed to these allegations is also visible. This is evident from the fact that the AKP deputies, who wanted to silence Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech yesterday by their shouts, stopped and started listening while Kılıçdaroğlu was explaining these four questions, and continued their loud reactions after.
It is a secret that everyone knows in Ankara’s political backstage that Erdogan trusts the Minister of Interior Soylu the most during the 2023 elections, along with the Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag.
With or without a soft spot, it seems difficult for Erdogan to give up Soylu until the 2023 elections.