U.S. Announces Sanctions on 2 Accused of Dealings With Assad or ISIS

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against a Syrian construction executive it said was helping President Bashar al-Assad buy oil from the Islamic State, as well as against a Russian businessman who leads the World Chess Federation and who is accused of having financial dealings with the Syrian leader.

The moves are the latest attempt by the administration to financially squeeze Mr. Assad, who President Obama has said must step down to bring an end to the four-year-old Syrian civil war, and to choke off the Islamic State’s cash flow. It is also the first time that the American government has issued sanctions against an individual for helping Mr. Assad do business with the militant group.

The actions emphasize an argument that the administration has increasingly been making about Mr. Assad as it seeks to press Russia to abandon its backing for him: that although the Syrian president professes to be at war with Islamist terrorists, he has a symbiotic relationship with the Islamic State that has allowed it to thrive while he has clung to power.

…“I didn’t have any commercial relationship with Syria, and all of my connections with that country and many others are purely humanitarian,” Mr. Ilyumzhinov said in an emailed statement. “As head of the large sport federation, I use all opportunities I have with heads of state to promote chess.”

He added that he intended to hold next year’s world chess championship in the United States, and that he had planned to travel to New York next week as part of preparations for the event.

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