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Foreign Policy Brief #32: A History of the Trump Administration’s Sanctions

 Update – April 3rd, 2018

On March 15th, the White House finally followed through on demands to sanction Russian individuals and entities, mostly for their involvement in the 2016 US election. Other factors leading to tensions between the two countries have included the recent nerve gas attack in the UK as well as a newly disclosed alleged cyberattack against the US power grid. In August 2017, Trump signed a bill passed nearly unanimously passed by the Senate authorizing him to sanction Russia. In January, Trump shocked many by missing the deadline to enforce those sanctions, instead arguing that by naming Russian offenders the intent of the bill had been fulfilled due to lost revenue.

With pressure finally building due to the UK attack and a letter penned by 140 House Democrats, Trump applied sanctions to a multitude of Russian government officials, the Internet Research Agency – an alleged internet troll farm, the Federal Security Service, and the Main Intelligence Directorate – both intelligence agencies. The sanctions would bar individuals from traveling to the US and freeze their assets. On March 26th, Trump also joined with over 20 other countries in expelling 60 Russian diplomats, to which Putin responded with the planned expulsion of an equal number of US diplomats and the closing of the St. Petersburg American Consulate. 

Iran

  • February 3rd, 2017: The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and companies allegedly connected to either Iran’s ballistic missile program or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quods Force. This move was in response to recent ballistic missile testing.
  • January 4th, 2018: The Trump administration announced sanctions on five subsidies of the already sanctioned Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group. The group’s logo appeared on missiles used by Yemeni rebels opposing the US-Saudi coalition, suggesting involvement by the Iranian company.
  • January 12th, 2018: The Trump administration issued sanctions on 14 Iranian entities and people while issuing a last chance for European leaders to fix the Iran deal. The most prominent target was Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the leader of the Iranian Judiciary. Larijani, a close ally of Ayatollah Khamenei, is accused of committing “torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran”
  • February 2nd, 2018: 6 individuals and 7 businesses across Lebanon, Iraq, and Western Africa suspected of aiding Hezbollah were the target of the most recent set of sanctions. The Lebanese militant group has been accused of being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps to destabilize conflict zones in Iran, Yemen, and Syria. The targets are presumed to be connected to the prominent Hezbollah financier Adham Tabaja.

Syria

  • April 24th, 2017: The Trump administration announced sanctions on 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, allegedly the source of the government’s chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Assad’s government was accused of using sarin gas on civilians earlier that month. This follows the sanctioning of 18 Syrians, including 6 others from the Research Center, who were sanctioned by the Obama administration that January in response to chlorine gas attacks.
  • May 16th, 2017: The treasury department imposed sanctions on 5 individuals and 5 companies in response to the Syrian government’s “relentless attacks on civilians”. The Trump administration accused the Assad regime of cremating the remains of thousands of hanged prisoners in an effort to “cover up the extent of mass murder”. Amnesty International previously reported that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were hanged at the prison from 2011 to 2015.

North Korea

  • September 21st, 2017: Trump announced sanctions targeting any company or person doing business with North Korea by cutting off their access to the US financial system.
  • December 24th, 2017: Lead by the US, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2397, which cuts exports of refined oil products by 89%, bans exports of industrial equipment, resources, and vehicles to North Korea, limits use of North Korean laborers, and requires countries to stop ships from illegally providing oil to North Korea.
  • December 26th, 2017: The US sanctioned Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol, 2 top North Korean officials in the ballistic missile program, in response to last November’s ballistic missile testing.
  • January 24th, 2018: The US issued sanctions on 9 entities, 16 people, and 6 ships accused of “working on behalf of North Korean financial networks”

Analysis

            Sanctions are a tool frequently reached for by the administration to backup Trump’s aggressive rhetoric. We haven’t seen much for positive diplomatic effects of these sanctions and they have lead to some tense exchanges. The Iranian State Media stated that recent sanctions “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community and is a violation of international law and will surely be answered by a serious reaction of the Islamic Republic,”. North Korea called last December’s sanctions an “act of war”. With supply lines to China largely cut off, Kim has turned to business fronts in Mozambique to fund his Nuclear slush fund. What is conspicuously missing from Trump’s sanction crosshairs is Russia. In fact, Trump has gone so far as to trigger a constitutional crisis to protect Putin, neglecting to impose Russia sanctions overwhelmingly supported Congress last year. This hypocrisy is evidence of the Trump administrations motivation for sanctions, using them as a display of authority rather than a tool to enforce human rights.

Engagement Resources:

  • Read a Previous USRESIST Brief on the Iran Deal: Here is a brief assessing the implications of Trump’s attitude towards the Iran Deal, which reduces sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Read an Assessment of All Sanctions Remaining on Iran: This article summarizes the many sanctions which remain on Iran, going back to those initially imposed after the 1979 revolution.

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

Update – April 3rd, 2018 

On March 15th, the White House finally followed through on demands to sanction Russian individuals and entities, mostly for their involvement in the 2016 US election. Other factors leading to tensions between the two countries have included the recent nerve gas attack in the UK as well as a newly disclosed alleged cyberattack against the US power grid. In August 2017, Trump signed a bill passed nearly unanimously passed by the Senate authorizing him to sanction Russia. In January, Trump shocked many by missing the deadline to enforce those sanctions, instead arguing that by naming Russian offenders the intent of the bill had been fulfilled due to lost revenue

With pressure finally building due to the UK attack and a letter penned by 140 House Democrats, Trump applied sanctions to a multitude of Russian government officials, the Internet Research Agency – an alleged internet troll farm, the Federal Security Service, and the Main Intelligence Directorate – both intelligence agencies. The sanctions would bar individuals from traveling to the US and freeze their assets. On March 26th, Trump also joined with over 20 other countries in expelling 60 Russian diplomats, to which Putin responded with the planned expulsion of an equal number of US diplomats and the closing of the St. Petersburg American Consulate.

 

 

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