Economic Sanctions Initiative

  • Can Sanctions Put a Dent in Crypto Crime?

    On November 28, the US Treasury Department took an important step in responding to the SamSam ransomware cyberattacks, which occurred earlier this year. Considered one of the most effective cyberattacks in US history, the hackers behind SamSam since 2015 have targeted institutions ranging from companies to hospitals to schools, demanding payments in Bitcoin as ransom. After being paid, the hackers laundered these funds through online cryptocurrency exchanges into Iranian riyals, reaping the rewards of their malicious behavior. As part of their designation, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included the Bitcoin addresses of Iran-based Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammed Ghorbaniyan, who are accused of...
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  • Trade Disrupted: US and China Need More Than a Truce

    At this year’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires, the trade dispute between China and the United States took center stage. Chinese President Xi and his US counterpart President Donald Trump agreed to avoid further escalations of the ongoing bilateral trade war for the next 90 days. The temporary deal does not assuage the escalatory measures already taken, leaving the existing tariffs in place. This edition of the EconoGraphic explores how the brewing trade conflict is impacting manufacturing supply chains, soybean cargo routes, and trade flows of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) among the United States, China, and the rest of the world.

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  • Trump Administration's New Nicaragua Sanctions Strategically Target the Top

    After US National Security Advisor John Bolton warned the “troika of tyranny”—Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—of forthcoming action earlier in November, it was only a matter of time before the Trump administration escalated its response to the violent repression this spring of anti-government demonstrators and the continued erosion of democratic institutions in Nicaragua. The announcement by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on November 27 of a new sanctions regime targeting Daniel Ortega’s administration and its supporters was a delayed but targeted way of increasing pressure on the Nicaraguan president and his cronies.

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  • Beware the Lure of Sanctions for Russia’s Latest Aggression

    It’s Monday, which means that Russia is again antagonizing its neighbors to the west. But instead of little green men, Wagner “private” security forces, or Russian regulars acting under another flag, this time the FSB—Russia’s internal security service—openly fired upon and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to traverse the Kerch Strait that separates the two countries. This is a significant escalation by Moscow of tensions that have simmered for months as Russia has harassed legitimate and important Ukrainian trade ships that traverse the disputed strait to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov. The chief dispute, of course, centers on Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 and...
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  • Global Magnitsky Sanctions: Raising the Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Bar

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    The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi thrust an otherwise little-known sanctions program into the spotlight—the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (or GloMag in sanctions parlance). On November 15, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control used the GloMag authority to designate seventeen Saudi citizens for their role in the Khashoggi killing. In “Global Magnitsky Sanctions: Raising the Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Bar” author Samantha Sultoon, a visiting senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Business &...

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  • Treasury Right to Sanction Saudis in Response to Khashoggi Killing

    The November 15 announcement by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the designation of seventeen Saudis for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be commended. While the Trump administration has been delayed in responding to the murder, with the president slowly forming a “very strong opinion,” the sanctions demonstrate that the administration has not stood idly by.

    Given the need for continued cooperation with the Saudi government on counterterrorism, oil production, and a host of other sensitive issues, the Global Magnitsky (or GloMag in sanctions parlance) sanctions authority was a strategic tool to use as...

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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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  • Skripal and Beyond: The Post-Election Russia Sanctions Landscape

    The US State Department made an important, if expected, announcement to Congress on November 6 that it was unable to certify that Russia had met the conditions in the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) necessary to stave off a second round of sanctions. The notification drew relatively little domestic coverage—coming, as it did, during the fever pitch of the US midterm elections—but it did garner an angry statement from the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, denouncing the department’s apparent lack of a timetable for imposing the next round of sanctions.

    Add Royce’s reaction to the draft bills that were simmering before the midterms recess, unease over the potential for another meeting between US President Donald J. Trump and Russian...

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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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  • How Will the Outcome of the Midterms Affect Trump's Policy Options?

    Democrats captured the House of Representatives while Republicans strengthened their Senate majority in the US midterm elections on November 6.

    We asked our analysts what they believe are the policy implications of this outcome. Here’s what they had to say*:

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