David Mortlock

  • Coherent US Strategy Seen Key to Effective Sanctions

    As Washington looks to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and interference in the 2016 US elections, economic sanctions can be a useful tool, but they must fit into a coherent US strategy in order to be effective, Atlantic Council experts told US lawmakers on May 15.

    “Sanctions can be a useful, precise, and effective tool of US foreign policy, so long as they are treated as a tool to implement a clear policy and a thought-out strategy,” David Mortlock, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center explained.


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  • Trump’s Gamble on Iranian Oil Exports May Not Play Out the Way He Expects

    On April 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump Administration will not grant any exceptions from sanctions for entities involved in the purchase of petroleum products from Iran. The Trump administration’s apparent decision to compel buyers to zero out their purchases of Iranian oil is likely to have dramatic consequences on the effectiveness of sanctions on Iran and the markets, with the potential to negatively impact both.  

    As another step in President Donald Trump’s May 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Pompeo’s announcement means that the administration is going further than the sanctions at the height of the pre-JCPOA sanctions regime. The Trump administration will now threaten sanctions against any entity facilitating a significant transaction...

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  • Congressional Russia Sanction Push Needs to Maximize Cooperation with Allies

    As the US Congress considers passing new sanctions to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, interference in US elections, and material support for Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, lawmakers should remain committed to a united approach with Washington’s European allies and ensure that the new legislation maximizes US cooperation with its partners, according to Atlantic Council Distinguished Ambassadorial Fellow Daniel Fried.

    Two current bills, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression (DASKA) Actand the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act , have been reintroduced in the US Senate as attempts to mandate the Trump

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  • Buy-In From Allies Critical for Effective Sanctions, Says Former US Treasury Secretary Lew

    US approaches to Iran and Venezuela provide a study in contrasts

    While the Trump administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran will be ineffective because the United States does not “have the support of our allies,” its approach to Venezuela—working in concert with friends—“represents more the way things ought to be done,” former US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on February 19.

    As the Trump administration and the US Congress increasingly view sanctions as effective means to achieve the United States’ foreign policy objectives, Lew, who also served as White House chief of staff to then President Barack Obama, had some advice: “Sanctions are most effective when there is broad buy-in around the world amongst our allies.”


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  • O'Toole and Mortlock Report Quoted in Bloomberg on Sanctions


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  • How Iran Will Cope With US Sanctions

    The Trump Administration’s second wave of sanctions against Iran went into effect earlier this month, directed against Iran’s vital oil and petrochemical sector, its Central Bank, and other financial institutions. However, Washington’s diplomatic isolation as a result of its unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its desire to mitigate oil prices softened some of the intended negative impact on Iran, which is already employing a variety of coping mechanisms.

    The Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative detailed these mechanisms in a new issue brief, How Iran Will Cope with US Sanctions, co-authored by Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center, and Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative. The report highlights a number of ways Iran has used in the past to circumvent previous sanctions...

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  • A Road Map of the Re-Imposed Sanctions for Iran

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    On November 5, 2018, the United States completed the re-imposition of nuclear related secondary sanctions on Iran. US President Donald Trump had announced in May that the United States would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) with Iran. To re-impose the sanctions, the US Departments of State and Treasury have revoked licenses that authorized certain activity with Iran as well as the waivers that were issued to lift the threat of secondary sanctions against non-US persons engaged in certain transactions involving particular Iranian individuals or entities....

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  • US Sanctions: Using a Coercive and Economic Tool Effectively

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    In recent years, US economic and financial sanctions have become favored tools of US power. The centrality of the US financial system and the ubiquity of the US dollar in the global financial marketplace make sanctions a powerful tool to have on hand when confronting foreign policy challenges. The great danger is, however, that sanctions become a substitute for actual policy, rather than merely a tool of foreign policy. In “US Sanctions: Using a Coercive Economic and Financial Tool Effectively” authors David Mortlock and Brian O’Toole, who are both senior fellows at the Atlantic...

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  • Dagres and Mortlock Quoted in Houston Chronicle on Iran Sanctions


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  • The United States Snaps Back Sanctions on Iran. Will They Bite the Government in Tehran?

    By reimposing sanctions on Iran, the United States is “simply trying to squeeze more out of the Iranians using a slightly lesser tool—sanctions functionally equivalent to what we had before without the corresponding political support,” according to Daniel Fried, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    US President Donald J. Trump’s administration on November 5 reimposed all of the sanctions that were lifted by Barack Obama’s administration as part of a 2015 deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Trump pulled the United States out the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May.

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