Iraq’s central government is cutting off wage and pension payments to Mosul,and other parts of northern Iraq controlled by the Islamic State. The move is expected to be one more crushing blow for people caught in the living nightmare of the Islamic State.
ISIS has indeed been skimming cash from salaries and pensions paid to captive Iraqi citizens. They even levied taxes against them for “services” the caliphate provides.
“The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental body overseeing global efforts to fight money laundering and terrorism financing, identified Iraqi salary payments as a ‘recurring source of revenue’ for the group, potentially providing hundreds of millions of dollars per year,” Reuters writes.
This left the Iraqi government in the agonizing position of either cutting off vitally-needed support for their hostage citizens, or inadvertently financing the Islamic State. “We are fighting Daesh and suspending salaries is a part of the war against Daesh,” explained one Iraqi cabinet adviser, using another name for ISIS. “Regrettably, in every war there is collateral damage.”
Baghdad promised that once Iraqis are liberated from the Islamic State, or if they manage to escape, they will be reimbursed for amounts due them. Reuters suggests there are “signs more people are escaping since the payments were halted.” The wage and pension freeze officially began in July.
Those who remain face what one exiled provincial council chief called a “humanitarian catastrophe.” Some Iraqis quoted in the article spoke of sustaining entire families on their now-terminated pension payments. Merchants trying to make a living in ISIS-dominated Mosul spoke of their enterprises collapsing as the money dried up.
Unfortunately, the Islamic State pulls in enough money from its assorted rackets, including plunder and kidnapping for ransom, that the loss of Baghdad cash probably will not hurt it much. In fact, Reuters cites fears that ISIS will be able to exploit the increased poverty of citizens by portraying them as Sunni victims of a cruel and uncaring Shiite government, and by hiring more muscle from a population that suddenly finds itself desperate for paychecks. One Mosul resident noted that ISIS militants “have a lot of money, and their members are living in luxury.”