Economic Sanctions that the U.S. Security Council has authorized against Terrorism

EconomicSanctions that the U.S. Security Council has authorized againstTerrorism

Economicsanctions that the U.S. Security Council has authorized againstterrorism

Currently, theinternational community does not have a legitimately binding,felonious law description for terrorism1.In this regards, Abrahms (2012) asserts that the description forterrorism has encompassed numerous violent acts against humanityespecially violent acts designed to create terror or panic andcommitted for political, religious, or ideological goals. Inaddition, these acts purposely target or ignore the security ofcivilians and neutral military personnel. In this regards, the lackof a binding definition has allowed some societies to include acts ofillegitimate violence and war as acts of terrorism and use ofcomparable maneuvers by criminal politically motivated organizationsfor protection rackets. However, despite the lack of a bindingdefinition, terrorism has developed as the predominant risk factor tohumanity and people’s safety. On the other hand, America has beenin the forefront in the battle against terrorism and has usedeconomic sanctions as preemptive strategies. In fact, America hasused and continues to economic sanctions to promote the full range ofher foreign policy intentions. The sanctions have succeeded in someareas as well as failed in other areas. As such, the assessment ofeconomic sanctions that the U.S. Security Council has authorizedagainst terrorism will allow the presentation of a framework thatreveals the sanctions that have succeeded and those that have failed.

U.S. SecurityCouncil

The U.S.National Security Council (NSC) acts as the president’sforemost forum for deliberating on matters of foreign policies andnational security matters with cabinet officials and senior securityadvisors2.Abrahms (2012) asserts that since its establishment under PresidentHarry Truman in 1947, the council has advised and assisted USpresidents on matters of foreign policies and national security. Inaddition, the council acts as the president’s foremost arm forsynchronizing these procedures among numerous governmentorganizations. In some cases, the council works harmoniously andcollaborates with other security councils of other countries.

According to Carter (2013), the council has worked tirelessly toreinforce Law Enforcement Counter-terrorism tools and improvement ofworld’s security by authorizing economic sanctions against nationsdeemed to support the cause of terrorist groups. In fact, the councilunderstands that America’s military power and intelligence mayforce enemies to assault America through means of terror instead ofconventional military attacks. On the other hand, terrorists continueto receive support from other organizations and some nations, developsophisticated weapons, and use extremism to further their ideologies.In this regards, the Security Council has developed frameworksthrough which to identify countries or organizations supportingterrorists’ cause and then authorize sanctions3.However, the council has used economic sanctions more predominantlythan other sanctions, which has helped the affected countries to loseimportant trade partners and weakened. However, the economicsanctions have also hurt America’s foreign policy in some quarters.


America remainsthe definite sanctions champion in the world especially with the helpof the Security Council. According to Abrahms (2012) and Carter(2013), America has imposed and continues to impose sanctions thanany other country. In addition, the country has imposed sanctions fora wide variety of objectives such as counter-terrorism, foreignpolicy, non-proliferation of armaments of mass destruction,environmental protection, war against narcotics, and human rights.However, most of the unilateral sanctions have gone towards humanrights, war against narcotics, and counter-terrorism. On the otherhand, Abrahms (2012) and Nielsen (2013) contend that the sanctionshave helped America assert her authority since they bring a cost-freemeans of counteracting problems. However, some of the sanctions haveproved contentious with other nations because of theirextraterritorial endeavors to oversee the actions of non-USorganizations and individuals in affected countries. Most of thesenations believe that the sanctions imposed whether economic ormilitary obstruct the sovereign rights of independent nations.However, America regards exporting as a privilege rather than a legalright thus, the legal authority to impose economic sanctions oncountries4.In this regards, the Security Council has played a principal role inauthorizing economic sanctions against individuals, organizations,and countries that have supported the cause of terrorism.


The SecurityCouncil deals with authorizing embargoes and other economic sanctionsto countries, organizations, and individuals supporting the cause ofterrorism while the Commerce Department and US Treasuryoversee the principal US economic sanctions5.In fact, the council has authorized sanctions touching on exports orre-exports, imports, bank accounts and other assets, payments,travel, and contracts. In addition, Nielsen (2013) asserts that thecouncil has helped in authorizing a set of embargoes and sanctionsagainst companies, organizations, vessels, and other entities deemedas Specially Designated Nationals of the embargoed nations. Inthis regards, the said entities or persons have received the samerestrictions as the target nations where the council has authorizedthe freezing of their accounts or assets and prohibited from dealingwith US persons and vice versa (Carter, 2013). On the other hand, thecontentious issues surrounding the economic sanctions imposed byAmerica has created negative international reaction, which has forcedthe council to authorize fewer sanctions in the recent past. In fact,federal legislations have imposed more sanctions in the last decadethan the executive organ due to the political alignment of mostsanctions. However, the Security Council continues to authorizeeconomic sanctions against entities or countries that supportterrorist actions, which has contributed greatly to the reduction ofterrorist activities.

Case studies:Entities affected

Following the9/11 attacks, America became more apprehensive and developed numerousframeworks and strategies to fight the war on terrorism. During hisaddress to the congress, President Bush outlined numerous fronts ofengaging with terrorists and their supporters such as covert action,intelligence, diplomacy, military enforcement, law enforcement, andeconomic sanctions6.In fact, America has historically used economic sanctions, covertaction, intelligence, and diplomacy as the auxiliary measures intimes of war with economic sanctions, particularly, foreshadowing oraccompanying broader war efforts. In this regards, America hasemphasized on Economic Tools in the fight against terrorism with topUS personnel pointing out that America regards economic sanctions asimportant as military or law enforcement. The country with the helpof the Security Council has since the 9/11 attacks deployed a varietyof economic sanctions including new ones to counteract terrorism.However, past economic sanctions used by the country have not bornefruits with only few instances where economic sanctions attainedforeign policy objectives. In this regards, the economic sanctionsemployed have only served as supporting strategies to covert actionand military force.

Despite the shortcomings of economic sanctions in the past, they havecaused nations or entities that harbor or support terrorist entitiesto reassess the scope of their harboring or support. For example,Libya’s extradition of Pam Am suspects point to the reconsiderationthat countries have started to make7.In addition, economic sanctions have helped disrupt terroristfinances through freezing of assets. During the 1970s and 1980s,America’s strategy mainly focused on state support globalterrorism. Then, the Security Council authorized several sanctions todesignated countries as opined by the Secretary of State such asrestrictions on exports, ban on licenses or sales, ban on foreignassistance, ineligibility of loans from international agencies, andrestrictions on imports. Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Sudan havereceived the most comprehensive economic sanctions, although Somalia,Afghanistan, and Cuba have also received economic sanctionsauthorized by the Security Council.

In 1984, theSecurity Council authorized several sanctions against Iran after herinclusion to the list of nation sponsors of terrorism. The USSecretary of State and other security agencies accused Iran of herparticipation in the bombarding of an American base in Lebanon. Thecouncil authorized the tightening of the existing export controls andauthorized the ban on imports and exports of numerous possiblymilitary useful goods. Beginning in 1995, under the authorization ofthe Security Council, President Clinton banned all US economicinvestment and dealings with Iran and barred US nationals andentities from supervising, financing, or managing oil progressprojects in Iran. However, the Clinton’s administration lifted someeconomic sanctions later in 1999 and 2000 after President MohammadKhatami, a moderate president, made some reforms. However, Americaconsiders Iran as the most active nation sponsor of globalinternational in the 21st century, which means that theseries of sanctions imposed against the country did not mitigateIran’s willingness to support and harbor terrorism.

The SecurityCouncil has authorized numerous economic sanctions against Iraq sincethe World War II. In fact, America has imposed most comprehensiveeconomic sanctions to Iraq than any other country ranging fromfreezing of top government officials’ assets and accounts, exportand import restrictions, and financial support from the internationalcommunity8.On the other hand, these economic sanctions have helped greatly inreducing or curbing Iraq’s capacity to instigate technologicalterror such as biological weapons and suitcase nuclear armaments.However, Iraq continues to sponsor and plan global terrorismespecially through dissent groups, for example, the country offersafe sanctuary to Abu Nidal organization and Palestine LiberationFront. However, after 9/11 America through the authorization of theNSC introduced new economic sanctions and doubled the existing ones.

On the other hand, several US agencies and international analystshave labelled Libya as having a long history of supporting terrorism.As such, Morse &amp Keohane (2014) contend that the NSC hasauthorized export controls and restriction on crude oil imports fromLibya. In addition, it has authorized restrictions on exports ofsophisticated gas and oil equipment and technology for fear thatLibya may use the equipment to further her objective of supportingterrorism. In 1986, several agencies and analysts quoted Libya as asponsor of terrorist assaults on Airports in Vienna and Rome, andsubsequently, the NSC authorized the implementation of comprehensivetrade and financial controls, which helped inhibit Libya’s role insupporting terrorism9.In fact, the NSC authorized the restriction of imports and exports ofservices, goods, and technology, banned all credits and loans to theLibyan administration, and held Libyan government and governmentofficials’ assets in US banks following the attacks. In addition,Morse &amp Keohane (2014) assert that following the bombings of PamAm airlift and France flight in 1988 and 1989 respectively, the NSCauthorized more economic sanctions such as restrictions of all travelto and from Libya, which led to great reduction of Libyan terrorism.In fact, Libya agreed to extradite the suspects of the Pam Am flight,compensated the victims of France flight, and expelled the extremistAbu Nidal organization. In this regards, economic sanctions againstLibya succeeded and allowed the enhancement of US-Libya relations,but analysts opine that the success attribute to imposition of thesanctions in a multilateral manner i.e. the UN also authorizedsanctions in tandem with US sanctions.

The NSC has authorized numerous sanctions against Syria for herinvolvement in sponsoring terrorism. America has imposed economicrestrictions and export controls to Syria but the two countriescontinue to have comparatively normal relations. Morse &amp Keohane(2014) opine that although Syria continues to harbor and supportHamas and Hezbollah among other Palestinian extremist groups, littleevidence exists on Syria’s participation or support for extremistactivities since 1986. On the other hand, the council has authorizedexport controls and economic restrictions on Sudan due to herharboring of Al Qaeda members. However, Wedgwood (2003) asserts thatsince 1994, Sudan has signaled its willingness to liaise withcounterterrorism efforts especially after she extradited Carlosthe Jackal to France and expelled Osama bin Laden in 1996.Nevertheless, Wedgwood (2003) affirms that Sudan has receivednumerous economic sanctions, but most of them have resulted due toSudan’s persecution of Christians and poor record of human rights.In fact, the NSC has authorized the imposition of limited diplomaticand travel sanctions to Sudan, although most of the restrictions havenot occurred practically in the recent past.

America regardsAfghanistan as the main safe haven for extremists althoughAmerica has not regarded Afghanistan as a state sponsor of terroristactivities, for fear that such a description would constitute a defacto acknowledgement of the Taliban as the valid administration ofAfghanistan. However, Wedgwood (2003) asserts that America under theauthorization of NSC and the Congress has imposed several economicsanctions against Afghanistan for noncooperation. The NSC hasauthorized freezing of Taliban assets in US, forbidden all trade inareas under the control of Taliban, and banned financialcontributions to the Taliban by US persons. In fact, the UN hassupported these sanctions as they have helped Afghanistan show somesigns of cooperation. On the other hand, America does not regardSomalia as a state sponsor, but worries as the country is analternative secure haven for terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. Inaddition, the country has seen some parts of the country fall underthe command of Al Shahab, a terrorist group notorious for instigatingterror attacks in East Africa. Somali has without a centralgovernment since 1991 and it is only through Amison10and international intervention that the country is realizing peace.However, NSC has authorized the ban of charcoal export in the area asit helps finance terrorist activities, travel, and frozen assets andaccounts of individuals in Somalia.


America hasimposed and continues to impose economic sanctions to countries,entities, and individuals believed to support or harbor terrorism.However, Carter (2013) argues that the success rate of these economicsanctions differs among areas or regions imposed since some countriescontinue to fight terrorist groups in their mandate such as Somaliaand Afghanistan. In addition, the NSC has helped authorize some ofthe economic sanctions imposed on countries, although some of thesanctions have failed to force entities or countries involved tocooperate in the fight against terrorism or end their support ofterrorist groups. Despite these shortcomings, economic sanctionsremain relevant in the fight against terrorism especially when usedas supporting strategies.


Abrahms, M. (2012). The political effectiveness of terrorismrevisited. Comparative Political Studies,&nbsp45(3),366-393.

Carter, R. G. (Ed.). (2013).&nbspContemporary cases in US foreignpolicy: from terrorism to trade. CQ Press.

Morse, J. C., &amp Keohane, R. O. (2014). Contestedmultilateralism.&nbspThe Review of International Organizations,1-28.

Nielsen, R. A. (2013). Rewarding human rights? Selective aidsanctions against repressive states.&nbspInternational StudiesQuarterly,&nbsp57(4), 791-803.

Wedgwood, R. (2003). The fall of Saddam Hussein: Security Councilmandates and preemptive self-defense.&nbspAmerican Journal ofInternational Law, 576-585.

1 Refer to on comprehensive definitions of terrorism

2 Refer to on the work and mandate of NSC especially the NSC, Counter Terrorism Bureau, an agency established in 1996 to deal with long-range issues of terrorism. The NSC partners with other agencies in the fight against terrorism

3 The NSC is an executive arm that deals with identification, support, and control of security matters.

4 The description of exports in this light allows America to impose economic sanctions as she wishes. For More information on economic sanctions, refer to US Commerce Department and Department of Treasury.

5 The NSC works in collaboration with other partners. For more information refer to

6 In the address, Bush opined a raft of measures that America will take in the fight against terrorism.

7 These extradition served to demonstrate the willingness of Libya to support the fight against terrorism

8 Since America started to impose economic sanctions, Iraq has received the most comprehensive economic sanctions followed by Libya

9 Refer to on terrorism background information

10 African forces that have helped bring peace to Somalia, but mostly with the help of KDF (Kenya Defense Forces)