This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chaos and Dysfunction

"Not just the militants. Any civil servant, from the courts to the schools, they cut their salary by 50 percent."
Syrian activist, Gaziantep, Turkey

"On account of the exceptional circumstances ISIL is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahedeen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position."
"Let it be known that work will continue to distribute provisions twice every month as usual."
ISIL notice, Raqqa

"I don't think this is fatal for ISIL. I still don't see internal revolt as what's going to be the outcome."
"It's more like a scenario of gradual decay and decline."
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, researcher, Middle East Forum
Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group's flags in Iraq. Despite the atrocities that made it notorious, the Islamic State group depicts itself as bringing a reign of justice and equality for Muslims under its radical version of Shariah law.
Associated Press    Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group's flags in Iraq.
They once were reputed to be in possession of a treasury that any legitimate country would envy. From the billion that was looted from Mosul banks to the hefty monthly oil revenues from captured oilfields, the sale of ransacked antiquities and ransom collected from nationals whom they abducted but hadn't yet beheaded or crucified, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was doing pretty well for itself and its caliphate. It boasted that it had so many resources it was able to print its own currency.
Those days are gone, evidently. And the reasons are evidently manifold, from the depressed price of oil, to the fact that the oilfields they have taken possession of are being bombed, and for their dire need to replace the military arms they have lost through bombing raids to ensure their ongoing effectiveness as a dreaded military power with Islamist ambitions to rule the world, once it has wrapped up the Middle East.
ISIL had no trouble attracting recruits. Its well-presented, snappy and glossy public relations literature and videos that those of an Islamist bent found so compelling for its hideous atrocities ensured there was a never-ending stream of foreign jihadis eager to join the new and exiting presence of pure Islamic traditions in conquest and superiority in the name of Islam. That ISIL took the precaution of paying recruits very well went a long way to ensuring loyalty.
But the truth is, even before the salary and freebie cutback there were those among the recruits who found themselves less than enthralled with the entire enterprise, who attempted to leave and for their troubles found the way out impenetrable, and decided to stay, after all, or were simply shot as traitors. Why leave, however, when it was estimated that Islamic state presented each of its fighters with a monthly largesse of $400 to $600, much in excess of public sector employees in Syria of $175 to $266.
AFP/AL-FURQAN Media/ Getty Images
AFP/AL-FURQAN Media/ Getty Images   A file picture taken from a video released on January 4, 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)'s al-Furqan Media allegedly shows ISIL fighters marching at an undisclosed location

The expense of salaries and the disposable cash needed to replace weapons destroyed in airstrikes and conflict represented two-thirds of the Islamic State budget, estimated Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi. Latterly, only American dollars were accepted for payment of "taxes", for water and electric bills, explained Raqqa activist Abu Ahmad. "Everything is paid in dollars", he emphasized. The kind of hard currency that went a long way.

Unsurprisingly, it hasn't helped Islamic State that the government of Iraq has decided it would no longer pay the public salaries of government workers remaining in territory under the control of the extremists. This represented another source of income for ISIL, one the Iraqi officials estimated was taxed from between 20 to 50 percent representing, a loss of $10-million a month, speculated experts.

People living in Raqqa have overheard ISIL officials speak of the devastating effect of airstrikes on oil infrastructure in both Syria and Iraq and the cuts to their bottom line occasioned by supply lines being cut, and revenue sources drying up. A Raqqa resident known only as Oussama describes the flight of residents of al-Bab despite ISIL order to remain. "You can sense the frustration, their morale is down", he said, of the ISIL fighters.

Since the road to Mosul was cut in the waning days of 2015, prices have risen astronomically, with gas up 25 percent, meat to almost 70 percent and the doubling of prices of commodities like sugar. According to the Soufan Group, a January 27 analysis concluded that ISIL in its search for alternative funding has looked to Libya where it doesn't face airstrikes, and where fighters there will continue to have free electricity and food baskets.
"Combined with all of the other strikes that we've done on ISIL's gas and oil production and distribution capabilities and strikes against his [sic] economic infrastructure and the various sources of revenue, you can bet that ISIL is feeling the strain on his [sic] checkbook."
"ISIL needs those funds to pay their fighters, to recruit new fighters and to conduct their various maligned activities."
General Lloyd Austin, head, US Central Command

Bombastic bluster in  hopes of generating optimism among the U.S.-led allies determined to wipe Islamic State out of the picture of a deteriorating Middle East? Could be. There's enough dysfunction ongoing there, with Ankara facing off with Moscow, and Riyadh with Tehran, Shiite militias accused of cleansing villages of their Sunni occupants, and Hezbollah leading Lebanon into yet another maelstrom while Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are weighed down with Syrian refugees. And of course, the emasculation of America by Russia.

It is about 18 months since Isis took control of Raqqa, imposing its strict rules on citizens. Now the group Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered is fighting back against its repressive ideology
International planes have been targeting the group's oil smuggling and cash stores -- AP

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