Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Decentralization: A Solution for Beirut’s Garbage Crisis?

In January 2016, I attended the Beirut Exchange Program in Lebanon organized by, which allowed me to examine the socio-economic climate of Beirut and engage directly with some of the leading intellectuals, academicians, and politicians of Lebanon. As I traveled through the streets of Beirut, I observed the massive stacks of trash piled up across the streets. This motivated to me to understand and find potential solutions for Beirut’s garbage crisis.

 Beirut’s garbage crisis began in June 2015 as the garbage collection company Sukleen stopped collecting the city’s garbage due to the end of its contract with the government and the closure of two garbage landfills. The termination of garbage collection has left huge trails of trash across the city.  Although the Municipal Law of 1977 stipulated that garbage collection can be undertaken by the local administrations, the central government undertook the responsibility to award garbage collection rights to Sukleen company in 1994. Sukleen is owned by Hariri family, an elite political/sectarian family who is also in charge of the major political party called The Future Movement. Critics argued that Sukleen indirectly blackmailed the government by stopping the collection of garbage to win new lucrative garbage-removal contracts (Blanford, 2015). Amid the halt of garbage collection, the national Cabinet, which has been “divided by local and regional conflicts has been unable to agree on where and how to dump the capital’s rubbish (Fernandez, 2015)”.

Currently, providing public provisions such as garbage disposal management requires municipalities to work under the oversight of various government agencies, such as the Qa’immaqam, the Muhafiz, the Minister of Interior and Municipalities (Haas and Antoun, 2015). The Muhafiz and the Muhafazat are civil service officers responsible for conducting administrative duties directly overseen by the Ministery of Interior and Municipalities (Haase, Antoun 2015). The Muhafiz is appointed by the Cabinet, whereas the Qa’imaqam is either appointed by the Cabinet or the Muhafiz (Haase and Antoun, 2015). The sectarian/political elite, who receive the direct oversight of civil service officers through the Cabinet and the Ministry, award lucrative public provision deals to their own companies (Salloukh et al. 2015). In these webs of crony capitalist networks, elected mayors are largely precluded from formulating and administering their own public policy choices (Haase and Antoun, 2015). This situation severely limits the ability of local communities to hold the elected officials accountable for handling local affairs, as their voting blocks are ineffective in persuading the central government. For instance, a typical electorate of a municipality in Beirut that suffers from the garbage crisis has the electoral magnitude to influence the electability of only a few MPs to the parliament and hence has almost no accountability power over the cabinet. The lack of accountability may disincentivize the elected officials from prioritizing the interests of their constituencies.


I believe that an administrative decentralization mechanism would provide a solution for Beirut’s garbage crisis by increasing the accountability of the elected officials. Decentralizing administration involves transferring the responsibility for the planning, financing and management of garbage collection from the central government officers to local municipalities elected through popular vote. The Municipal Law of 1977 allows municipalities to determine the rates of municipal taxes, enabling municipalities to finance their own public provisions. Decentralization would provide leverage for the elected municipalities to undertake garbage disposal management without the interference of political/sectarian elites. Through participating in the elections the electorates of municipalities would have the full leverage to hold the elected officials accountable, which would incentivize the municipality to solve the garbage crisis in a given district.


Some potential problems exist with providing the authority to municipalities to handle garbage disposal. First, municipalities are too small to be able to self-sufficiently handle garbage disposal management. As of 2012, There were 964 municipalities in a population of 4.259 million people, which leads to roughly 4300 people per municipality (Solh, 2012). According to the Municipalities Act, “every city, town, and village in Lebanon is allowed a municipal authority provided that its population exceeds 300 persons and its annual revenues exceed LL 10,000 (Harb and Atallah, 2003)”. As a result, many of the municipalities possess extremely small populations and budgets (Solh, 2012). To solve this problem, the Lebanese government could improve the self-sufficiency of municipalities by encouraging them to form municipal unions (Haase and Antoun, 2015).  A municipal union is composed of several municipalities that have decided to formally work together to resolve common public policy problems (Municipal Act, 1977). Such unions could unite the resources of municipalities to undertake garbage disposal management.


The second potential problem is that given the lack of political alternatives to sectarian political parties, a decentralized mechanism may not be sufficient enough to prevent corruption. To counter this argument, it is important to note that the political parties that form alliances within sectarian lines at national elections often compete against each other during local elections. For instance, Hezbollah and Amal, the two major political parties of Shi’a sect, united their forces in some electoral districts during the national elections, yet competed against each other in almost all districts during the local elections. The competition between parties within sectarian lines would lead to competitive elections even in sectarian-homogenous municipalities, incentivizing the elected officials to prioritize the interests of their constituencies and lowering the rate of corruption.











Blanford, Nicholas (2015). “Beirut garbage ‘mafia’ torching Lebanese governance.” The Christian Science

Monitor 26 July 2015. Web. Accessed: 18 Jan 2016

Fernandez, Belen (2015). “Lebanon’s rubbish state: A metaphor comes to life.” Middle East Eye. 27 July 2015.

Web. Accessed: 18 Jan 2016

Haase, T. W. and R. Antoun (2015). Decentralization in Lebanon. Public Administration and Policy in the

Middle East, Springer: 189-213.

Harb, M., & Atallah, S. (2003). Decentralization and infrastructure service delivery in Lebanon. The

World Bank Group, 1 , 1–41.

Municipal Act. (1977). Decree-law no. 118. Beirut, Lebanon: Republic of Lebanon.

Salloukh, B., et al. (2015). The Politics of Sectarianism in Postwar Lebanon. London, Pluto Books.

Solh, L. R. (2012). The politics of location and its impact on municipal amalgamation: The case of Saida

and El Zahrani union of municipalities. Beirut: American University of Beirut.



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Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Akademisyenlerin Hain ve Terörist İlan Edilmeleri Hakkındaki Görüşlerim

Akademisyenlerin barışı istemelerine rağmen, barışın neden olgunlaşmadığı ve nasıl olgunlaşacağı konusunda ana görüşten farklı düşündükleri, yani aynı amaca (barış) farklı noktalardan ulaşılmasını önerdikleri için hain ve terörist ilan edilmeleri, işlerini kaybetmeleri size de garip gelmiyor mu? Doğrusu ve yanlışı olan amaç ve yöntem kümelerinde, doğru amacı ve yöntemi (barışı ve şiddeti sonlandırmayı) seçen bireyin, doğrusu ve yanlışı olmayan ve sonsuz olan olguları yorumlama kümesinde muktedirden farklı düşündüğü için hain ve terörist ilan edilmesi, işini kaybetmesi size de garip gelmiyor mu? 

Bana ikisi de çok garip geliyor.


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Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Searching for the Root Causes of Clientelism in Turkey and Lebanon

One of the main pillars of industrialization is the development of horizontal class affiliations. As pre-industrial societies lack horizontal class affiliations, political parties in pre-industrialized societies may establish their political platform on providing better services to rural areas instead of representing class interests. This factor may lead to the mushrooming spread of clientalistic activies, as the vote may led to direct bargaining with the candidates and parties about the services to be exchanged with votes (Güneş-Ayata, 1994). Villages may support parties and switch their sides based on the promises of parties to carry out services such as roads, electricity, schools, and groups may compete through political parties in getting their share of resoures (Güneş-Ayata, 1994). Therefore, democracy may function as a system of clientilistic networks attempting to capture the control of the state budget through the ascendance to power of the populist political parties (Kalaycioğlu, 2001). This might have been the case in Turkey and Lebanon, as both countries had elections before industrialization took place. In the Turkish case, the first election were contested between DP and CHP largely based on the distribution of patronage policies (Güney-Ayata, 1994). In the Lebanese case, the first elections were conducted in the early 20th century with political parties divided under sectarian lines, well before Lebanon experienced industrialization.

According to Sayarı (1975), the trend of clientelism might continue even after a country industrializes. During the times of industrialization, societies become more akin to uncertainties due to surrounding socioeconomical and sociopolitical changes. Politics based on distribution of services flourishes at that time, as traditional vertical ties weaken, but are not replaced by new ideological or class ties (Sayarı, 1975). This leads to successful transformation of clientalistic networks to industrialized areas. As a result, migrants might look for state interventionism or favoritism to guard them against socioeconomic vulnerability. In Turkish case, Justice Party, Motherland Party, Welfare Party and AKP, ruling conservative parties in 1970s and through 2000s, responded to these demands through carrying rural political structures into the cities, especially in areas where migrants were concentrated and used state power as a pork-barrel mechanism to mobilize voters (Güneş-Ayata, 1994). As a result, the patron-client relationships, which were established in rural areas, have successfully transferred themselves with migration to urban areas. In the Lebanese case, the trend of sectarianism might have continued even as Lebanon has experienced industiralization, as all of the major Lebanese political parties have been almost exclusively supported by specific religious sects and have built their platforms based on sect interests. Clientelism might have a very significant place in Lebanese politics such that political parties in Lebanon have facilitated clientalist activities by enabling voters to write-in their chosen candidates. In Lebanon before the elections, some political parties distribute sheets with the names of candidates written in stylized formats, and ask their constituencies to vote for candidates listed in the given sheets, which make it easier to track the choices of voters and therefore lead to increased efficiency of the clientalistic activites. Although the Lebanese parliament have failed to form effective governments, political parties have continued to thrive through the support of their constituencies. Thus, a potential cause of the active support of constituencies could be the patronage mechanisms.

Although “pre-industrialization” theory offers a compelling argument for the prepondance of clientelistic activities in Lebanon and Turkey, more research in clientelism of both countries needs to be carried out to understand the root causes of clientelism.

Güneş-Ayata, A. (1994). Roots and Trends of Clientelism in Turkey. London, Boulder.

Kalaycıoğlu, E. (2001). “Turkish Democracy: Patronage versus Governance.” Turkish Studies 2(1).

Sayarı, S. (1975). Some Notes on the Beginnings of Mass Political Participation in Turkey. Political Participation in Turkey: Historical Background and Present             Problems. G. B.-D. Engin D. Akarlı. İstanbul, Boğaziçi Univesity.

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Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Making Sense of IS’s Violence: Is its Ideology the Cause?


      The classic argument in the study of civil wars is that ideological tendencies of movements account for their character and actions.  As a result, in the Western world a wide assumption has been established that violence against civilians is one of the fundamental characteristics of Islam.  Terrorist organizations in the Middle East have often been called “Islamists, jihadists, Muslim groups.”

     Rejecting or accepting such assumptions require a throughout study of Islam.  The goal of this article is not to investigate the so called link between Islam and violence, for that purpose there is a large literature in the field. Instead, I would like to talk about the theory of endowments, which argues that it could be the factors other than ideology (religious, political etc) that may encourage violence against civilians.

  Recently I read a book called “Inside Rebellion”, written by Jeremy Weinstein. Weinstein argued that the ideology of rebel organizations is not a determinant factor in the conduct of violence. Instead, we need to look into social and economic endowments of rebel organizations. The rebel organizations with high levels of economic endowments are associated with high levels of indiscriminate violence, as leaders are unable to use their wealth in support of their groups’ social purposes.

    Weinstein separates recruits of rebel organizations in two groups.  The first group is composed of high-commitment recruits (investors) , who are dedicated to the cause of the organization and willing to make costly investments today for the rewards in the future. The second group is composed of low-commitment individuals (consumers), who are seeking short-term material gains. Consumers are tied to rebel organizations usually for material gains. They are less productive, as they require a continual expenditure of resources in the short term.

    In the long run, resource-rich rebel groups tend to be filled by opportunistic joiners, while those fighting with little economic endowments attract committed soldiers. Because they are held together by short-term material incentives, resource-rich rebel groups should provide material support to their combatants to prevent their collapse. These groups are therefore permissive of attacks on civilian populations to maintain their membership.

    In addition, the groups that are built on economic endowments do not need civilian support to survive; therefore they behave in a more predatory fashion, with no concerns about the reactions of the populations. The same holds true for obtaining resources. Where they are provided externally or require minimal labor, groups have few reasons to ensure broad-based participation of population.

The Case of IS

 IS made considerable money through war itself, plundering millions of dollars from local Christians and Shiites, whom they viewed as “apostates” (Johnston, Bahney). They kidnapped foreigners for ransom, as it was noted that they asked for about 132$m dollars for the release of American journalist James Foley (Rukmini).  There were reports that ISIS stole 429$m dollars from financial institutions when they raided Mosul (Jack More). IS is engaged in oil industry, which helps to build up a surplus of $100m to $200m dollars of revenues (Johnston, Bahney). With all the revenue that is generated, ISIS provides salaries that are higher than those of governmental forces (Shelton, Tracey). As a result, ISIS is largely composed of low-commitment opportunistic  fighters. The short-term, material motivations of its membership rendered ISIS’s commanders unable to police defection or indiscipline within their units, abusiveness was an unintended result of a recruitment strategy that attracted opportunistic joiners first. In addition, IS does not need the broad population’s support or hard labor for its survival, therefore IS commanders do not have much incentive to prevent the application of indiscriminate violence.

   Applying Weinstein’s theory into the case of IS violence shows us that we may not be able to find the causes of civilian violence by solely looking into IS’s ideology.

Johnston, Patrick, and Benjamin Bahney. “Disrupt ISIS’s Cash Flows.” The New York Times13 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Aug. 2014.

Shelton, Tracey. “No More Mr. Nice Islamic State.” CNBC 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Aug. 2014.
Rukmini, Callimachi. “Before Killing James Foley, ISIS Demanded Ransom From U.S.” The New York Times 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Aug. 2014.

Weinstein, Jeremy M. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print.


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Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Iran’s Kurdish Dilemma

         A potential scenario in Iraq seems to be a loosely formed alliance or the breakup into three states, ruled by the Kurds, the Shias, and the Sunnis. Such a scenario would severely limit Iranian influence in the region, and could lead to further demands of autonomy by Iranian Kurds.
         Despite having rich natural and water sources, Kurdish regions of Iran were ranked as the least developed provinces in the country (Elling, 2013). The government has not only underinvested in the region, but also has squeezed the agricultural production and forbid education in Kurdish language (Amnesty International, 2008). As a result, the unemployment rate in the region was as high as 50% in 2008 (Iranian Kurdistan, 2008). The mistreatment at home and inspirations of Kurdish struggle coming from Iraq and Turkey led to formation of Kurdish rebel group. According to PJAK, the Iranian wing of Kurdish Political and Military Organization PKK, the hopes of attaining self-rule through peaceful means had exhausted and there was no other opportunity left but to take up arms (Zambelis, 2011). However, the rebellion support in Iranian Kurdistan has not been as strong as the local Kurdish groups received in Turkey and Iraq. One reason for the low levels of support is the mismatch of identities between the Kurdish leadership, most of whom are urban and left oriented, and basic Kurdish Iranian population, most of whom are rural and loyal to their tribes (Smith, 2009). These tribes (ashirets) are dominated by rural elites who have kept a distance with rebel groups (Smith, 2009) and the traditional leadership has often hindered the development of Kurdish nationalism (Kamali, 2003). In addition, there are many Kurdish factions in Iran, making it difficult to form a representative group to be able to negotiate with the Islamic Republic (Bordbar, 2014). As the Islamic Republic continued to be “an island of stability”, Kurdish separatist factions have focused their energies on Syria, Iraq, and Turkey, where they have had a higher likelihood of maintaining independence. Therefore, knowing the limits of independence movement in Iran, the reaction of the Iranian government towards Kurdish independence movements in Syria and Iraq has remained cautious and pragmatic. For instance, while declaring its desire to see Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis to return back to their alliance with Shias, Iran supplied arms to peshmerga in their fight against IS (Collard, 2014). In addition, it supported Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and other Kurdish groups that currently oppose independence (Collard, 2014). Iran’s pragmatism towards Kurds is evident from its policy goals from the Kurdish Regional government, as it wishes to keep an eye on Iranian elements and Kurds in the KRG, ensure that KRG embraces policies that support Iran’s interests, and ensure that leaders in Kurdistan do not form alliance with other groups (Knights and Pollock, 2014).
             Yet, while remaining pragmatic Iran also faces serious dilemmas. One the one end of the spectrum, there is the idea that the Kurds in Iran will not be able to achieve the progress achieved by their kinships (Knights and Pollock, 2014). Therefore, Iranian government can increase its cooperation with an autonomous Kurdish region while improving the living standards and democratic participation of its Kurdish population. Overall, the ethnic groups with less access to political and economic power are more likely to rebel against the government (Cederman et al, 2010). The current income equality and land distribution within the Kurdish regions of Iran is also receptive of economic endowments. The land reform of 1962-1966 initiated by the Shah took away the land from tribal leaders, distributed it among peasants and encouraged waged agricultural labor (Kamali, 2003). This led to a more egalitarian society. An economic initiative to the region, such as cutting down taxes on land or providing incentives for agricultural products could benefit the society in equal terms. This would decrease the possibility of horizontal inequality. As evidence shows from India, growing horizontal inequality can produce dissidents, even if it is accompanied by economic growth (Murshed, 2013). On the other hand, the inequality of Kurdistan with other regions of Iran coupled with the egalitarian outlook of the Kurdish population offers a very favorable field for the growth of nationalism. Overall, relative equality of landownership together with overall poverty works against emergence of class cleavages among peasants by producing a ”corporate village” pattern (Ozbudun, 1988). The economic endowments toward region could lead to creation of a greater middle class in this ”corporate village”. As in the case of Singapore, this middle class could seek to have greater autonomy from the central government, especially regarding culture in order to take greater control of their lives (Rodan, 2007).
          Overall, opening up the Kurdish regions and cooperating with Kurdish National Government could mean the acceleration of the nationalist movement in Kurdish regions and more internal turmoil. On the other hand, it could lead to a long term solution to the Kurdish problem and deeper integration of Kurdish population to the society. In such case, Iran’s portfolio over divided Iraq would be greatly diversified, and Iran would exert much more independent foreign policy.
         The previous attempts by reformists to create a more inclusive Iran have faced resistance by conservatives. During the reformist Khatami’s term, Kurdish politicians were rejected from ruling for the office (Romano and Gurses, 2014). City council meetings in the Kurdish region were occasionally nullified by the conservatives (Romano and Gurses, 2014). As evidenced, attempts for reforms could receive serious resistance from the military and ruling machine, who would prefer the status quo and even turmoil over a more democratic and open society, as openness could mean the deregulation of their political and military power. As we can recall from the Iran-Iraq War, the ruling elite of Iran is notorious for utilizing existing threats to its national security in order to silence the opposition. Overall, it is ambiguous to figure out what effect a more powerful Iran have on the Kurdish issue. As long the ruling elite stays in power the tilt will be in favor of oppression and a desire to keep the status quo, even though this could mean a greater internal turmoil.
Elling, Christian R. Minorities in Iran: Nationalism and Ethnicity after Khomeini. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013. print.
“Iran: Human Rights Abuses Against the Kurdish Minority.” Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights. 2008. Web. 14 Sep. 2014.
Iranian Kurdistan. Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organizaiton (UNPO). March 25,2008.Retrieved September 14, 2014.
Zambelis, Chris. The Factors Behind Rebellion in Iranian Kurdistan. West Point: Combatting Terrorism Center, 2011. Web. 10 May. 2014
Smith, Benjamin. “Kurdish Separatism in Comparative Perspective”:1-33. 2009. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.
Kamali, Farideh. (2003). The political development of the Kurds in Iran: Pastoral nationalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bordbar, Behdad. “Iranian Kurds Disappointed with Rouhani.” Al Monitor 23 12 2013, Web. 14 Sept. 2014.
Collard, Rebecca. “The Enemy of My Enemy: Iran Arms Kurds in Fight against ISIS.” Time Magazine 27 08 2014, Web. 9 Sept. 2014.
Knights, Michael, and Pollock, David. “The Kurdish Crescent: New Trends in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.” Washington Institute for Near East Policy 14 09 2014, Web. 14 Sep. 2014.
Cederman, L., Wimmer, A., & Min, B. (2010). Why Do Ethnic Groups Rebel? New Data And Analysis.World Politics.
Murshed, S. (2013). The role of inequality in rebellion and revolt. The Brooker. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
Ozbudun, Ergun. ”Development of Democratic Government in Turkey,” in Ergun Ozbudun (ed.), Perspectives on Democracy in Turkey. 1988, Web. 25 Sep 2014.
Rodan, G. (2007). Singapoure: Emerging Tensions in the Dictatorship of Middle Class.The Pacific Review,5(4), 370-381.

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Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Top 5 Book Recommendations

Here is a list of books that I particularly enjoyed as an undergraduate student:

1- Why Nations Fail (Acemoglu, Robinson)

2- Thinking, Fast and Slow (Kahneman)

3- Games of Strategy (Dixit) – Textbook

4- Diplomacy (Kissinger)

5- Türk Dış Politikası Cilt 2 (Baskın Oran)


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Saturday, September 13th, 2014



My name is Salih Yasun, and I am currently a PhD student of Political Science at Sabanci University, Turkey.

Upon graduating from Portland High School, MI, I received my B.A. from Cleveland State University, USA, in both economics and international relations with honors. During my undergraduate studies, I participated in a research project that focused on Female Labor Force Development of Turkey, and I particularly enjoyed classes on Game Theory, Econometrics, and Economics of Development.

At Sabanci University, I wish to deepen my knowledge on quantitative and qualitative analysis and ultimately pursue multi-method research in order to understand nature and outcome of human actions. My current interest is on Turkey, and the Middle East.

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