Countries Sanctioned by the United States and What it Means

The phrase ‘sanctioned’ was coined by a Canadian theorist, Herbert Marshall McLuhan, who claimed that the influence of media and telecommunications has led to the world becoming a single entity of sorts. By definition, the same applies to distances. Travel is more facile and convenient than ever.

Another method that eliminates boundaries is by engaging in international trade. Nations who establish international relations with other sovereign countries may export and import goods and services with them. However, there are exceptions where ties may be severed between countries, which can lead to embargoes and sanctions.

For instance, if there is a terrorist attack in a country and that nation alleges that another government was responsible, the attacked nation will most likely abandon relations and pursue sanctions to initially avoid a military conflict. There are different types of sanctions that can be imposed on a country.

Diplomatic ties that are broken may include the removal of embassies. This may also consist of a travel ban, which means you cannot obtain a visa for that country. An economic sanction can also be promulgated, which would entail embargoes such as a complete ban on the trade of goods and services.

Additionally, a military sanction is possible, which would include the prohibition of sales of any arms and ammunition to that nation. Countries sanctioned by the United States is the dominant player in the field of global politics. As on politician put it: "When America sneezes, the whole world takes notice". The United States has sanctioned half a dozen countries for a variety of reasons. We will look into each of these and examine why such evasive action was taken.


In 1979, following the Iranian Revolution, the Shah of Iran was overthrown by the aggressors in favor of a fundamentalist Islamic state; subsequently, the Iranian hostage crisis materialized, where 52 Americans were held hostage for over a year. This led the United States to break all ties with the Islamic Republic.

Sanctions remained in effect since then and were reinforced when President Obama took office in order to force the Iranian regime to come to the table and work out a deal regarding their nuclear facilities. Sanctions were gradually dropped after Obama finalized the Iran deal; however, the deal was deemed controversial by many due to the number of offerings the Obama Administration gave to the Iranians, of which some say was too much.

In view of this, President Trump, who was adamant about canceling the deal for that reason pulled the United States out of the deal and began to reinstate the sanctions, as he believes that Iran was breaking the deal, as well as looking into every angle to continue their nuclear bomb ambitions. In addition, Iran's ballistic missile program, which was not part of the deal and their continued violation of human rights also played a part in Trump's decision. As of the writing of this article, it remains to be seen what will happen next between the Iranian regime and the United States.

800px-Flag_of_North_Korea.svg.pngNorth Korea

Officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, this East Asian state is the topic of a raging debate regarding their relations or lack thereof with the United States. The two nations became embroiled in controversy as early as the 1950’s when America.

This month, a revolution in diplomacy materialized that will change the hostilities between the two nations, possibly forever. A deal was reached with Kim Jong-Un and President Trump where North Korea will begin to denuclearize and in so doing, the sanctions that the United States has put on Kim’s regime will be gradually lifted. It is a wait and see game that the world is watching, but at this time, it does look promising.


Although the complexities of the fighting in Syria and other parts of the Middle East have either remained the same or have escalated, there actually are only three main actors who are combating each other, with sub-entities (smaller groups and/or proxies) being supported by one of these three entities.

The entities are:

  1. ISIS
  2. Shiites supported by Iran and Russia
  3. Sunnis supported by the Sunni nations, the US and Europe

As such, one could envision this dilemma in the form of a triangle (with Israel currently on the sidelines):


with that said, the hostilities in Syria are complex, with scores of nations fighting for or against each other, as well as across the Middle East, but ground zero would definitely be Syria, as whoever gains control of Syria has a distinct tactical and geographical advantage in the Middle-East, which would subsequently allow that group or nation to expand their ideology. Here is a brief table of how complex this situation is:





US, Russia, Sunni States, Shiite States, Turkey

No One


ISIS, Syria, Turkey

US, Sunni States

Syrian Rebels

ISIS, Syrian Military, Iran, Russia

US, Sunni States


ISIS, Israel, Sunni States

Russia, Syria

Syrian Regime

ISIS, Israel, Sunni States, US

Russia, Iran

Yemin Hudis

ISIS, Sunni States



Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

Palestinians, IS

Cutting through this web of hostilities, it is clear that the Shia Assad Regime is bent on maintaining power and as such sanctions by the United States remain in effect. According to former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, Syria is ‘beyond the axis of evil’. The United States has had fractious relations with the West Asian country owing to their involvement in terrorism. From the American perspective, Syria is an active sponsor of terrorist activity.

Furthermore, Syria’s poor track record of human rights and their current civil war, which began in 2011, are also cited as legitimate reasons for the sanctions. Consequently, the United States has ordered major restrictions on Syria.


This particular sanction began in 1958 and has persisted ever since. America’s relations with the Republic of Cuba were first soured when Fidel Castro became Prime Minister. Similar to Iran’s case, he superseded a post-revolution candidate who had forged strong ties with the United States. The dawn of a new dictatorship was met with unfavorable glances from America, who initiated their sanctions as punishment.

Besides their alleged lackluster human rights record, the Cuban Missile Crisis also played a significant part. In a nutshell, at the height of the Cold War, USSR had deployed their ballistic arsenal in Cuba in retaliation of America placing theirs in Italy and Turkey. Although Cuba only played host, it definitely did not improve relations between both parties. Trade is generally embargoed, excluding exemptions which are made for humanitarian efforts and similar endeavors.



Formerly Myanmar, Burma has also drawn the ire of America. Burma is regularly involved in human rights issues, which is essentially why the United States has placed sanctions on them. Also, political decisions have also contributed to the ruling. Burma is led by a military regime, spearheaded by Senior General Than Shwe. He has gained a bad reputation and was listed as one of the worst dictators of the modern world in Parade Magazine as well.

United States citizens are not allowed to make any investment in the country. Additionally, both imports and exports from and to Burma are prohibited. Similar to Cuba, a solitary exception is made for humanitarian exercises.

Flag_of_Côte_d'Ivoire.svg.pngIvory Coast

Finally, the African nation is also part of USA’s sanctioned countries list. Also known as Côte d'Ivoire, this is yet another case where human rights issues have led to sanctions. That was not always the case though. Ivory Coast was once a burgeoning economy thanks to its coffee and cocoa reserves. However, once those dried up, the situation worsened. The 80’s and 90’s were tough which ultimately led to civil war in 1999.

The confrontation has not subsided, even in present-day Ivory Coast. The victims of this war are families, women, and children, which is why the United States acted. They also mistrust any party which supplies military equipment to the country.

The United States is vigilant about its international relations. Besides the sanctioned countries, there are several others which are placed on the ‘risk’ list as well, including Afghanistan and China.

Posted On June 18, 2018