Economic Sanctions




The September 11 attacks in Washington, D.C. precipitated severalcountermeasures. In fact, President George Bush outlined acomprehensive war on terrorism that would be fought on variousfronts. Some of the target areas would include law enforcement,intelligence, military, covert action, diplomacy, and economicsanctions. The latter forms part of the nonmilitary hard powertactics used to weaken and defeat terrorists (Nacos, 2016).Governments usually impose economic sanctions to influence thebehavior of target countries and organizations. Such restrictions maybe applied to trade and foreign aid (Nacos, 2016). Notably, numerousefforts have been expended in drying up the financial resources ofcriminal groups (Nacos, 2016). An analysis of documents reveals thatonly covert action and military force can have a considerable impactin the fight against terrorism. Economic sanctions have little effectwith regards to achieving foreign policy targets.

The Bush administration implemented various measures to disrupt theactivities of terrorist organizations. For example, the governmentfroze the assets of named individuals, groups, and fundraisinginstitutions to weaken the al-Qaeda network (Nacos, 2016). In thisregard, the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center was createdwithin the Treasury Department (Nacos, 2016). Economic sanctionsfocus on Specially Designated Terrorists (SDTs) and state sponsors ofcriminal organizations. The latter includes nations that are reputedto provide financial support to international terrorists. Some ofthese countries include Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Cuba,and Sudan (Nacos, 2016). State sponsors may face strict restrictionson export licenses for critical technology or dual-use items.Interdicts may also be issued on the sale of substances listed by theU.S. Munitions Control (Nacos, 2016). Moreover, foreign assistance inthe form of guarantees and bank credits could be restricted. Thepresident has the discretion to outlaw imports from state sponsors(Nacos, 2016). U.S. citizens could also be prohibited from conductingbusiness with terrorist countries. Similarly, Americanrepresentatives at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund(IMF) are obligated to vote against the provision of financial aid todesignated nations (Nacos, 2016). Although such restrictions havebeen enforced for several decades, many state sponsors continue toharbor terrorist groups and criminals.

Afshari and Ghavanloo (2016) showed that the application of variouseconomic sanctions violates basic human rights. Granted, restrictionsare cheaper and more appropriate than the use of military force. Somecountries have used different sanctions as mechanisms to accomplishforeign policy objectives. In most instances, such nations havestable structures within the international system. For example, theUnited States has been at the forefront in the application ofrestrictions against countries such as Iran (Afshari &amp Ghavanloo,2016). Some sanctions target individuals and groups rather than thegovernment. Such restrictions are customarily imposed owing toviolations of international laws and statutes. In particular, severalIranians have faced sanctions due to their alleged or proveninvolvement in the nuclear program. Others have also been targetedbecause they stand accused of violating multiple human rights(Afshari &amp Ghavanloo, 2016). Nevertheless, the application ofeconomic sanctions has led to the deaths of many Iranians. In fact,the shortages of medicine, lack of social services, and poverty havebeen exacerbated by export restrictions (Afshari &amp Ghavanloo,2016). The right to life deserves to be respected regardless of theperceived threat faced by a nation. Moreover, sanctions have led tohigher inflation rates and lower accessibility of food. The livingstandards of many Iranians have also plummeted due to the adverseeffects on income, employment, and production (Afshari &ampGhavanloo, 2016). Additionally, sanctions have destroyed theinfrastructure needed to provide proper medical services. Also, someIranian citizens have been barred from studying technical majors inforeign universities (Afshari &amp Ghavanloo, 2016). The ban onconventional weapons has severely undermined the country’s abilityto defend itself against probable attacks. The writers argue that thedispossession of government assets disregards the principle ofinviolability of state properties (Afshari &amp Ghavanloo, 2016).Although sanctions were justified as an attempt to fight globalterrorism, many people have been punished due to their involvement inthe peaceful nuclear program. Individuals who have suffered suchafflictions should have the mandate to seek recourse in institutessuch as the European Court of Human Rights (Afshari &amp Ghavanloo,2016). Since financial restrictions are frequently misapplied, theydo not suffice as a method of combating terrorism.

Bapat, De La Calle, Hinkkainen, and McLean (2016) examined whethereconomic sanctions could be used as an effective way of combatingtransnational terrorism. The writers proved that nations were morelikely to impose restrictions on governments with intermediate statecapacity (Bapat et al., 2016). Contrariwise, countries with thrivingor dwindling states had a lower likelihood of experiencing sanctions.Many stakeholders believe that restrictions can discourage thesponsorship of terrorism. Policymakers also claim that sanctions havea limited impact on nations that host transnational criminal groups(Bapat et al., 2016). The American government deploys restrictions asa carrot in that they would reward cooperative regimes and as a stickin that they would punish terrorist countries (Bapat et al., 2016).Nevertheless, it is quite difficult to distinguish between supportersand hosts of criminal groups. Notably, some state sponsors mask theirsupport of terrorist organizations. Such cases can be seen inPakistan’s association with the Taliban insurgency and Syria’slinks with Sunni jihadists during the Iraq war (Bapat et al., 2016).However, nations such as Libya and Somalia have been brazenlysupportive of terrorist groups such as Abu Nidal and al-Shabaab,respectively (Bapat et al., 2016). Previous research has recommendedthat developed nations should expand economic cooperation to engagehost countries. On the other hand, sanctions should be used againstblatant sponsors of crime. Nevertheless, the writers argue that sucha strategy motivates supporters of terrorism to masquerade as hostnations. In this respect, governments must utilize observableinformation to examine the relationship between criminals and foreigncountries. Nations with low capacity are perceived as hosts whilethose with high capacity are assumed to be sponsors. Subsequently,intermediate states such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistanexperience sanctions due to the incentive to conceal their guilt(Bapat et al., 2016). The writers claim that economic restrictionsonly undermine the organization’s ability to acquire money fromforeign countries and accomplish their objectives (Bapat et al.,2016). Consequently, sanctions can neither convince hosts to derailthe group’s activities nor coerce sponsors to discard terrorists.

Lektzian and Regan (2016) proved that economic sanctions wouldshorten civil conflicts if they were deployed along with militaryinterventions. Furthermore, the greatest impact would occur whenrestrictions formed part of a comprehensive international effort. Thewriters acknowledged the ability of sanctions to limit the amount ofresources held by target nations and organizations (Lektzian &ampRegan, 2016). Therefore, restrictions could help to ensure mediationbetween disputing sides. In fact, sanctions could alter theincentives for continued conflicts and hence shorten the duration offighting (Lektzian &amp Regan, 2016). Nonetheless, restrictionsbecome defunct when disputes are marred with violence. For a conflictto end, warring factions must be convinced that making peace hasgreater benefits than extended clashes (Lektzian &amp Regan, 2016).The writers argue that sanctions should never be applied in isolationas a way of reducing confrontations (Lektzian &amp Regan, 2016). Inthis regard, the researchers used data on civil skirmishes from theThreat and Imposition of Database and the UppsalaConflict Data Program Armed Conflict Database (Lektzian &amp Regan,2016). Strategies aimed at resolving international disputes shouldincorporate a variety of measures (Lektzian &amp Regan, 2016).Consequently, economic sanctions must be combined with military forceto reduce conflicts and support the war against terrorism.

McClean, Hinkkanainen, De La Calle, and Bapat (2016) proved thatsanctions would be detrimental when applied to states that sufferterrorist attacks. On the other hand, restrictions could have limitedsuccess in countries that host transnational criminals. In manyinstances, developing nations manifest reluctance in imposingsanctions against states that fight terrorism (McClean et al., 2016).In such cases, it is assumed that economic restrictions would hamperthe country’s ability to identify and eradicate criminal groups.Hence, economic sanctions are rendered counterproductive, especiallyif the host nation’s instability would threaten internationalsecurity (McClean et al., 2016). Granted, some states would use suchreasoning to justify their refusal to impose restrictions ondesignated countries (McClean et al., 2016). The writers sought toexamine whether sanctions could weaken the nation’s ability tofight terrorist organizations. Subsequently, the researchers foundthat restrictions served to prolong the existence of criminal groups.Therefore, it would be improper to apply sanctions to countries thatwere focused on the fight against transnational terrorists (McCleanet al., 2016). Notably, such restrictions caused substantial economicdamage by restricting access to exports (McClean et al., 2016).Furthermore, embargoes and other sanctions could encourage hoststates to reduce their support for terrorist groups. For example,imposing restrictions against Afghanistan would be ill-advised sincethe country has been targeted by the Haqqani Network (McClean et al.,2016). However, it may be proper to sanction Pakistan since it servesas the home base for the infamous group. The writers also showed howsome nations could be incentivized to misrepresent their interactionswith terrorist organizations (McClean et al., 2016). The resultantplausible deniability would only embolden criminal groups to commitworse atrocities (McClean et al., 2016). Consequently, economicsanctions are not ideal for combating the threat posed bytransnational terrorists.

Piri and Piri (2016) explored the role played by foreign nations suchas the U.S. in the development of terrorist networks in the MiddleEast. The writers cited American superiority as a key factor in theimposition of sanctions. Notably, the U.S. could afford to lose manyof their trade partners without suffering adverse economic effects(Piri &amp Piri, 2016). On the other hand, other countries could notbear to forego their commercial ties with the American government. Infact, sanctions inflicted on the U.S. would customarily have reverseeffects on the other nation. American independence provides thecountry the enviable right to formulate one-sided policies (Piri &ampPiri, 2016). Additionally, the Middle East had a considerablereliance on the U.S. for survival in international markets andsustained economic growth. Besides, countries in the ArabianPeninsula had single-product economies that were overly reliant onoil (Piri &amp Piri, 2016). Such disproportionate dependence onpetroleum makes the states in the Middle East highly culpable toexternal pressure. In this regard, the U.S. specializes in issuingsanctions as a method of achieving foreign policy goals. Developingnations are usually burdened with restrictions that lead to manydeaths, especially those of children (Piri &amp Piri, 2016). The UNhas published reports that show the devastating effects on social andeconomic institutions (Piri &amp Piri, 2016). Inevitably, localcitizens have developed deep-seated animosity and hatred towards theU.S. Extremist groups have exploited the ensuing anger anddisillusionment to sponsor terrorist attacks against Westerncountries. The writers noted how embargoes on medical supplies andfoodstuffs to nations such as Cuba and Iraq had led to the widespreadsuffering of women and children (Piri &amp Piri, 2016). Therefore,imposing economic sanctions fuels terrorism by encouraging theformation of fundamentalist organizations.

Some articles agree with the claim that restrictions not only lead toa gross violation of human rights but also cause numerous deaths(Piri &amp Piri, 2016 Afshari &amp Ghavanloo, 2016). Nevertheless,Piri and Piri (2016) held the U.S. responsible for the development ofterrorism. Other articles emphasized the fact that sponsor states maymasquerade as host countries to avoid sanctions and benefit fromforeign aid (McClean et al., 2016 Bapat et al., 2016). Bapan et al.(2016) showed how restrictions could impair terrorist organizationswhile McClean et al. (2016) focused on the damage to targetednations. However, Lektzian and Regan (2016) emphasized thecombination of sanctions with military force to combat terrorism.

A review of the articles has shown me the adverse effects of applyingeconomic restrictions. Notably, the supposed terrorist threat to theU.S. does not justify the numerous deaths of innocent children incountries such as Iraq and Iran. Furthermore, the targeting ofnations within the Middle East amounts to racial profiling. Althoughterrorist networks must be stopped, such efforts should not bepursued at the expense of the health and economic sectors of hostcountries. In fact, economic sanctions can be counterproductive inthat they inspire the emergence of extremist groups. For example,terrorist attacks are usually carried out in Western countries inretaliation to perceived injustices. Therefore, restrictions shouldnot be used to fight crime.


Indeed, economic sanctions should play an auxiliary role to the useof covert action and military force. Notably, there are severalreasons to explain why even the most comprehensive measures havelimited impact. Firstly, the history of economic sanctions inprevious years shows no success against foreign organizations such asal-Qaeda, Abu Nidal, Hamas, and Hezbollah. For such groups, terrorismis their ultimate reason for existence. Hence, economic tools cannotsuffice to derail their activities. Besides, the use of sanctionsagainst countries that sponsor terrorism has had minimal effects.Although the efforts in Sudan and Libya were somewhat successful, theachievements were quite modest. Furthermore, freezing the assets ofdrug peddlers has captured less than 1% of their cash reserves. Sinceterrorists are more elusive than drug lords, economic sanctions wouldnot cause a significant dent in their financial resources.Notwithstanding, waiving current sanctions can attract more allies inthe fight against the global threat of terrorism.


Afshari, M., &amp Ghavanloo, S. (2016). Assessment of legal aspectsof sanctions by America against officials and political personalitiesof the Islamic Republic of Iran. International Journal ofHumanities and Cultural Studies (IJHCS)​ ISSN 2356-5926,471-480.

Bapat, N. A., De la Calle, L., Hinkkainen, K. H., &amp McLean, E. V.(2016). Economic sanctions, transnational terrorism, and theincentive to misrepresent. The Journal of Politics, 78(1),249-264. doi:10.1086/683257

Lektzian, D., &amp Regan, P. M. (2016). Economic sanctions, militaryinterventions, and civil conflict outcomes. Journal of PeaceResearch, 0022343316638714. doi:10.1177/0022343316638714

McLean, E. V., Hinkkainen, K. H., De la Calle, L., &amp Bapat, N. A.(2016). Economic sanctions and the dynamics of terrorist campaigns.Conflict Management and Peace Science, 0738894216635023.doi:10.1177/0738894216635023

Nacos, B. L. (2016).&nbspTerrorism and counterterrorism (5thed.). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor &amp Francis Group.

Piri, S., &amp Piri, A. Y. (2016). The role of the U.S. in Terrorismin the Middle East. Journal of Politics &amp Law, 9(3),31. doi:10.5539/jpl.v9n3p31