Sanctions and embargoes are the prohibition or ban of certain activities by a specific body with the aim of encouraging or discouraging a particular behavior. Sanctions may be related to trade, military, political, legal, or science while embargoes are mainly partial or total restrictions on economic activities between various countries or regions. The US has imposed sanctions on several countries through executive orders which are signed by the president through the Office of Foreign Asset Controls in the US Department of Treasury. Such sanctions and embargoes include bans on the export of arms, withdrawal of financial aid, and restrictions on economic assistance.
Countries the United States Has Sanctions and Embargoes Against
The US issued sanctions and embargoes against Iran in 1979 after a group of radical students attacked the US embassy in Tehran. The incident led to the freezing of most of Iran’s assets, with stricter sanctions being imposed in later years. After Iran's invasion of Iraq in 1984, there was a ban on weapon sale to Iran and prohibition of economic assistance to Iran. Other sanctions include the 1996 ban on Iran-US oil trade, the ban on exportation of aviation equipment, the 2004 ban on the publishing of scientific manuscripts from Iran, and bans for direct relations between Iranian and US banks. These sanctions have resulted in increased prices of basic goods.
The US and North Korea have non-existent diplomatic relations that were worsened by the Cold War and the Korean War. The invasion of the North Korean forces in South Korea on June 25, 1950 triggered the US government to impose a severe economic ban against North Korea. Subsequent years have seen more sanctions imposed on the country, especially due to its involvement in nuclear weapons and threats of bombing the US. The US issued the latest ban in March 2016 following a North Korean cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.
Relations between the US and Syria were officially suspended in 2012. Before that, the relations were strained due to numerous sanctions issued against Syria since 1986 for involvement in terrorist activities. Syria has denied any support in terrorist activities, issuing passive support for “legitimate” resistance movements. Numerous sanctions and executive orders have been issued against Syrian citizens and companies for engagement in terrorism, public corruption, and involvement in Lebanese and Iraq activities. US persons are prohibited from engaging in the Syrian petroleum trade as well as investing in Syria.
Relations between Sudan and the US became strained after Sudan’s recurrent association and support for terrorist groups including the Palestinian and Libyan terrorists. Sudan was declared a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, therefore attracting trade, financial, and economic sanctions from the US government. The sanctions were introduced following Sudan’s support for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, involvement in the Pan-Arab Islamic Conference, and providing homes to international terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden, Carlos the Jackal, and Abu Nidal. After the Darfur violence, the sanctions were toughened. Relations between the two are likely to improve following the resumption of US-Sudan military ties and the establishment of a CIA office in Khartoum.
The US first issued sanctions against Cuba in 1960 during the Cold War and Cuba’s alliance with the USSR. The sanctions were triggered by the gradual take-over of the private sector industries majorly consisting of Americans. Although the two still maintain diplomatic relations, the commercial and economic bans restricting business between Cuba and US corporations are still in place, making it hard for Cuba to do business with the US. Following secret negotiations between Cuba and President Barack Obama, some of the travel restrictions were eased as well as restrictions for associations with Cuban banks. Cuba was also removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Improving diplomatic relations
The US has made several attempts with some of the listed countries to improve diplomatic relations. Although most of these efforts have not produced significant results, they are a step towards the right direction as far as diplomatic relations go.