Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Moderate Syrian opposition fighters are increasingly joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for financial reasons, Syrian National Coalition representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Adib Al-Shishakli has warned.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Shishakli said that international funding cuts to moderate Syrian fighters wages are prompting rebels to throw in their lot with the jihadist group which is capable of paying far higher salaries.
Syrian moderate fighters earn around 140 US dollars per month while reports indicate that ISIS fighters are paid much higher salaries, with some media outlets reporting that ISIS pays its members as much as 150 US dollars per day.
Shishakli added that UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s proposal to suspend hostilities between government and opposition forces in northern Syria, particularly Aleppo, remains unclear. He claimed that previous plans put forward by de Mistura did not assist the Syrian rebels but rather favored the Assad regime.
The Coalition ambassador’s comments come as moderate Syrian rebels in Aleppo are preparing to defend the town from both regime forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Assad forces and ISIS have secured positions around Aleppo, with each side seeking to entrench their position ahead of a possible future advance.
US warplanes carried out airstrikes on ISIS positions north of Aleppo earlier this week, although moderate rebels were unable to take advantage and advance, with observers decrying a lack of coordination between the US-led international alliance and Syrian rebel forces on the ground.
While Syrian regime warplanes carried out raids in the region just one day later, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting that 2 civilians were killed and 14 others injured in the city of Al-Bab. Regime helicopters also dropped 3 barrel bombs in the Al-Mallah area in northern Aleppo on Tuesday, the Observatory said.
As the conflict escalates in Aleppo, there have been increasing calls to back De Mistura’s ceasefire plan, with some observers saying that this could be used as a model for other local ceasefires elsewhere in Syria.
De Mistura’s plan calls on the Syrian government and opposition forces to observe a ceasefire in Aleppo in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach around one million of the city’s inhabitants and to act as a prelude for a potential political solution.
The EU has also expressed reservations about the UN envoy’s plan. “Britain and France believe that implementing the UN envoy’s plan is not possible without the presence of international observers,” an EU diplomatic source speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said.
Dispatching personnel to Syria to monitor the implementation of the plan on the ground would require a binding UN resolution, which is likely to face resistance from within the UN Security Council, the source added.