After civil wars and/or American interventions destroyed the economies of Libya, Iraq, and Syria, some of the most stable, well-paying jobs left were with the Islamic State. But a new report suggests ISIS grunt work has gone from lucrative and exciting to a real crummy slog.
According to the AP, American airstrikes on I.S. oil depots, refineries, and cash vaults have put a serious pinch on the caliphate’s ability to pay out decent wages and perks:
Islamic State group has slashed salaries across the region, asked Raqqa residents to pay utility bills in black market American dollars, and is now releasing detainees for a price of $500 a person.
The extremists who once bragged about minting their own currency are having a hard time meeting expenses, thanks to coalition airstrikes and other measures that have eroded millions from their finances since last fall. Having built up loyalty among militants with good salaries and honeymoon and baby bonuses, the group has stopped providing even the smaller perks: free energy drinks and Snickers bars.
It’s a Silicon Valley truism that the abundance or scarcity of perks are a good bellwether of financial doom—when your startup stops giving out free Diet Cokes and fancy granola bars, things are about to get ugly. If ISIS can’t even hand out some damn Snickers anymore while its soldiers are firing off rounds and decapitating people, they’ve fallen on tough times.
This wasn’t supposed to happen: ISIS leaders once boasted of their plans to mint a unique currency, as a play for political legitimacy. But this never really got off the ground, and the group’s leaders have long relied on American cash to procure arms and compensate its ranks.
Videos of that cash being incinerated and raining from the sky following aerial attacks mean even this backup monetary plan isn’t tenable. The AP reports that in some towns, ISIS fighters aren’t even drawing a salary anymore: “In the Iraqi city of Fallujah, fighters who once made $400 a month aren’t being paid at all and their food rations have been cut to two meals a day.” Are layoffs next? Increases in out-of-pocket healthcare costs? Hiring fighters as “interns”? Freelance budget slashed at Dabiq?
Our advice to ISIS: Form a union while you still can.