Countries That Have Locked And Unlocked U.S. Sanctions

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The U.S. has played the role of a global watchdog since the end of the Cold War. Many a times, it has been involved in the resolution of international conflicts using sanctions as a tool.

Here is a list of nations that have been locked and unlocked under U.S sanctions:

Countries That Are Locked Away For Good


While the U.S started accusing Syria of funding terrorism back in 1979, the series of sanctions began in 2004 under Bush Administration when all exports except for food and medicine to Syria were banned. A new sanction was imposed in 2006 against the Commercial bank of Syria that banned U.S banks from maintaining any correspondence accounts with the bank. All these were in an effort to stop all terror funding from the country. From 2010 to 2011, Obama imposed sanctions against Syrian officials and others responsible for violent repression of the protests for democracy, the U.S also froze all the assets of the Syrian government and prohibited any U.S citizen from involving in any kind of transactions with anyone from the country. However, Trump broadened the sanctions in 2017 after Syrian President used chemical weapons against his own people. Syria is going to be under lock and key until the Syrian war comes to an end. 

North Korea

Most sanctions against North Korea so far has been against their weapons programme. Under the Obama administration, they were imposed on entities found to have contributed to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program, arms trade, mineral or metal trades (a large part of North Korea’s foreign exports), human rights abuses and violations of cybersecurity. These sanctions are expected to adversely affect its economy. The Trump administration approved new sanctions after North Korea’s ballistic missile tests. 


Though Venezuela-U.S relations have been a love-hate one, U.S. started imposing sanctions in 2015 after Nicolas Maduro, the present President came into power. They were aimed at 7 individuals who were intimidating Maduro’s political opponents. After Maduro announced the ‘sham’ elections to organise a body to write a new constitution, the US responded with new sanctions on 13 new individuals who are past or present government officials, high ranking military officials and managers from state oil companies. It is also considering imposing sanctions against the oil industry in Venezuela. 


Since the cold war, U.S and Russia have been adversaries. The 1st ever US sanctions on Russia was back in 1974 which were lifted only in 2012. In 2014, U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia when it annexed Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine. These were targeted Russia’s oil and defence sectors, which are key revenue sources for the country.  In 2016, around 35 Russian diplomats were suspended after US intelligence confirmed there was cyber attack directed to influence the elections. While Trump seemed warmer towards Russia during his election campaign, the congress hasn’t taken the election hacking allegation lightly and so the move has been to strengthen existing sanctions and impose some news ones on some major Russian industries like railways, mining and companies doing business with the Russian oil industry.

Countries Unlocked Under Obama But Locked Under Trump


The U.S had imposed a long-term embargo on Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s. However, it changed for a temporary period after Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in 2015. Some restrictions on Cuba were eased while others remained. However, new president Trump recently stated that the sanctions against the country would be strengthened until free and fair elections are held.


Following the Iranian revolution of 1979, election of hardline leaders and Iran’s pursuit to become a nuclear power, U.S. had imposed sanctions aimed at stopping Iran from getting the necessary technology and at the same time preventing trade with foreign nations. In 1984 and years that followed additional sanctions were imposed that prohibited weapon sale and all assistance from the U.S. The lack of trade hurt Iran’s economy so much so that after the election of moderate Hassan Rouhani, Iran negotiated a nuclear deal with the P5+1+1(the permanent members of the U.N + Germany+ E.U). The deal essentially slowed down Iran’s nuclear program for 10 years and opened it to repeated inspections by international organisations in exchange for reduced sanctions. But under Trump, new sanctions were imposed on Iran related to its ballistic-missile program.

Today, Iran’s economy is still stifled, with only a few countries agreeing to strike deals with it. This includes India, China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey. For now, these countries have been allowed to deal with Iran, albeit only temporarily. The sanctions, further, hamper Iran’s relations with a lot of countries – India included – who do not want to make a foe in the US. 

Countries Unlocked For Good


The country’s access to trade benefits for poorer nations had been suspended in 1989 over human rights abuses. However, most of these sanctions were finally lifted in 2016 under the Obama administration. This decision was taken in the light of the country electing a democratic government and Obama’s meeting with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ivory Coast

Sanctions were imposed against the country’s political figures in 2006 after they had blocked a 2003 peace process. These were lifted in 2016 following a successful presidential election in 2015 and its progress in curbing illegal trafficking of arms and natural resources.

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