Economic Sanctions Initiative

  • 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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  • Sultoon in Las Vegas Sun: Trump Pursuing The Right Goals In Cuba, But In The Wrong Way


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  • Spotlight: Next Steps with Venezuela

    Despite increased, coordinated international pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, he continues to cling to power. Maduro’s staying power has outlasted the Trump administration’s optimistic timeline, but, in this case, the stated goal of regime change is one worthy of perseverance. The need for a timely solution is exacerbated by the extreme humanitarian crisis – created by years of Maduro regime mismanagement – that has already prompted 3.7 million Venezuelans to flee. In order to achieve its policy objective, the Trump administration’s strategy should be broadened beyond

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  • Fried Quoted in The Telegraph on US Sanctions On Iran's Revolutionary Guard


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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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  • A Look at the Implications of Trump’s Decision to End Sanctions Waivers for Countries Importing Iranian Oil

    The Trump administration’s decision not to grant any more sanctions waivers to countries that import oil from Iran is part of a maximum pressure strategy intended to cut off a critical source of revenue and force Iran to the negotiating table. But it will likely result in an increase in oil prices, resistance from countries that continue to buy Iranian oil, and a backlash from Tehran, according to Atlantic Council analysts.


    “The Trump administration’s announcement is certain to face pushback from major importers of Iranian oil, raise prices for consumers, and further erode the utility of sanctions as a non-military tool of US foreign policy,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.


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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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  • Trump Policy, Not Sanctions, to Blame for Poor US Response to Iran Floods

    The recent record flooding in Iran has killed dozens, inundated nearly 2,000 villages and cities across Iran, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the country’s infrastructure. 

    The Trump administration’s response through the State Department, predictably, has been to offer unspecified support to the Iranian people while at the same time sharply criticizing Tehran for environmental mismanagement that exacerbates the severity of the flooding. Setting aside the accuracy of any such criticism, the ham-handed US response to this natural disaster has again exposed the Trump administration’s inability to execute a nuanced policy. It is clear that the “maximum pressure” campaign and policy mindset are harming the ordinary Iranians that President Donald Trump and his surrogates proclaim to want to help. 

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  • Trump’s New Cuba Policy Threatens to Reignite Historic Disagreement With Key Allies

    The Trump administration broke another policy precedent with its March 4 decision to activate a decades-old US law on Cuba, ostensibly to punish Cuba for propping up Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela and for its ongoing suppression of human rights, as well as to put additional pressure on Maduro to step down. The unilateral policy decision threatens to further antagonize key US allies, particularly the European Union (EU) and Canada—both of whom have otherwise been largely consistent with the Trump administration on Venezuela policy—while likely stopping short of achieving the desired impacts on Havana and Caracas.

    For the first time since enactment of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (...
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  • Using Sanctions Against Human Rights Abusers and Kleptocrats


    On Tuesday, February 26, the Atlantic Council’s Global Business & Economics Program’s Economic Sanctions Initiative hosted a public discussion featuring Ms. Andrea Gacki, Director of the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), on the Global Magnitsky Act’s uses, misuses, and lessons for business.


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