A militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014.
A militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. Reuters

ISIS Fighters Just Got a Huge Pay Cut

Jan 19, 2016

Whatever you may have been told, sometimes waging war on behalf of an apocalyptic nightmare theocracy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Fighters for ISIS—the nominal government controlling sections of Syria and Iraq known also as the Islamic State, or Daesh—had their salaries cut by half late last year, according to internal government documents leaked from the Islamic State. The documents were obtained and translated by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum who studies ISIS.

“So on account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position,” reads a translation of the recently-surfaced memo, issued circa November-December 2015. The Islamic State does kindly inform its soldiers that, though times are lean, payments will not be interrupted: “Let it be known that work will continue to distribute provisions twice every month as usual.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, experts estimate the Islamic State paid roughly between $400 and $600 to each fighter monthly, before the pay cut. That’s well above the minimum wage paid to public sector employees in Syria at the beginning of the uprising in 2011—between $176 and $266—which experts surmise may be an important recruiting tool for the Islamic State, the CRS reports.

The financial pressure coming down on ISIS is likely the result of coalition bombing campaigns aimed at disrupting revenues from the nominal country’s oil business. The low price of oil—currently at its lowest point in 12 years and expected to fall further yet—may also be taking a bite out of the Islamic State’s coffers.

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