By Steve Birr
The Obama administration is accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government of covertly buying oil from Islamic State through Russian and Syrian intermediaries in order to avoid international sanctions, simultaneously enriching the wealthy terrorist organization.
“In response to continuing violence by the Assad regime against its citizens, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated four individuals and six entities providing support to the Government of Syria,” reads the statement from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, “including a middleman for oil purchases by the Syrian regime from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”
The Treasury Department sanctioned Russian companies with suspected ties to the Syrian central bank and blacklisted Syrian-Russian businessman GeorgeHaswani. The Treasury Department alleges Haswani uses his company HESCO Engineering and Construction to facilitate oil purchases between the Syrian government and ISIS, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation, is also implicated by the Treasury Department for his ties to business associates of the Assad regime. Ilyumzhinov is blacklisted by the U.S. government for his connections, allegedly using Moscow’s Russian Financial Alliance Bank to assist the Syrian central bank in avoiding sanctions, reports The Wall Street Journal.
“Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was designated today for materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria,” says the statement from the Treasury Department.
According to the Treasury Department’s report an adviser of Ilyumzhinov was convicted for the murder of an opposition journalist in 1999 who was investigating an offshore business owned by Ilyumzhinov. Ilyumzhinov, who is a shareholder in the Russian Financial Alliance Bank, denied the chargesWednesday to the Russian press, reports Reuters.
“I want to emphasize that I have never had any kind of commercial interests in Syria or Iran,” Ilyumzhinov told Interfax, a Russian media outlet.
The Treasury Department’s accusations reflect a longstanding fear within the intelligence community that Assad’s regime has been purchasing oil from ISIS-controlled territory, helping enrich the terrorist organization. As recently as October, defense officials estimated ISIS yields $47 million in oil sales, reports Reuters. It will also put pressure on Russia as it rethinks its alliance with the Assad regime following the attacks in Paris. The Treasury Department came out strongly against those undermining the interests of the U.S. and its allies in the region.
“The Syrian government is responsible for widespread brutality and violence against its own people,” Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, said Wednesday. “The United States will continue targeting the finances of those enabling Assad to continue inflicting violence on the Syrian people.”
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