Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Sanctions without Sanctuary
When we don’t attack ‘em or Tweet them into the ground, when we do not slogan heavily against them, and when talking fails, there are always “sanctions.” What exactly are they, where do political leaders get the power to mount them and what legally can trigger the application of such sanctions, either by a group of nations or a single powerful country with anger, revenge or containment in its focus? The July 13th The Cipher Brief explains:
“‘The basic legal framework for applying sanctions,’ says David Cohen, former Deputy Director of the CIA and Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, ‘begins with an overarching law enacted in 1977 called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, also known as IEEPA, which gives the President the authority to devise a sanctions program to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. national security, our foreign policy, or the economy.’
“Through executive orders, the President, pursuant to IEEPA, delegates authority to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which consults with the Intelligence Community and other parts of the executive branch to determine what specific individuals or entities should be sanctioned. The Treasury Department then adds the offending people or companies to the Specially Designated Nationals list. Assets and finances of those on the list are frozen, and they are prohibited from conducting business with any U.S. institution…
“In addition, the State Department can designate countries as State Sponsors of Terror, a label that carries additional policy implications, including sanctions… U.S. companies must check the Treasury Department’s website frequently to learn about new individuals or companies that have been sanctioned. Companies that fail to abide by sanctions requirements may face hefty fines or criminal charges.
“Ultimately, sanctions are meant as a tool designed to pressure an individual, company, or state to change its behavior. Treasury officials regularly de-list entities that comply with U.S. rules and agreements. ‘The key thing to remember about sanctions is that they are not punitive,’ Cohen told The Cipher Brief. ‘They are designed to encourage a change in behavior. Anybody who is designated can seek to be removed from the sanctions list by demonstrating that the behavior that got him or her sanctioned in the first place has changed.’”
We can freeze assets and bank accounts, ban our nationals and those who do business within the United States from transacting business (sometimes with exceptions) with sanctioned companies, countries or individuals, enforce travel bans on offending individuals and/or squeeze offenders from access to our financial system (including the financial systems of those nations we have collectively agreed to impose such sanctions). The results can be devastating to those facing these powerful economic tools. They can be general bans or target only specific people and companies or market sectors.
Over the years, our working knowledge of how to craft, monitor and impose sanctions has grown in scope and stature with entire bureaucracies within major federal agencies dedicated to enforcement. Our causes are many. “‘If you are sanctioned for nuclear reasons, human rights reasons, or terrorist reasons, the consequences are the same,’ says Adam Smith, a former sanctions official for the Obama Administration… Congress can also enact legislation to impose new sanctions or modify already existing sanctions.
“U.S. sanctions implemented against the Islamic Republic of Iran offer a good example of how the executive and legislative branches can simultaneously impose sanctions, based on both executive orders under IEEPA and acts of Congress. Among the substantial number of executive orders imposed against Iran, Executive Order 13438, enacted in July 2007, permits the executive branch to sanction persons who threaten Iraqi stability by providing arms to Shia militias in Iraq. U.S. military officials have made a persuasive case that Iran gave the Iraqi Shia militias particularly lethal weapons called explosively-formed penetrators. Executive Order 13572, enacted in May 2011, enables the administration to sanction individuals responsible for human rights abuses against the Syrian people. This order was aimed at Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the external action arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who has been linked to several deadly operations in Syria.
“At the same time, the Iran Sanctions Act, passed by Congress in 1996, remains in effect and continues to play an integral role in codifying sanctions against Iran for its illicit nuclear activities, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses.” The Cipher Brief. But recent events have expanded our sanction efforts with some nasty backlash.
As Russia invaded and conquered Crimea and moved into Ukraine, Europe and the United States imposed sanctions on Moscow and some Russian high rollers. That only led Vladimir Putin to push really hard to get his “buddy” Donald Trump in office, knowing that The Donald made no secret about reducing or lifting those sanctions… notwithstanding strong contrary resistance from Trump’s own party. Election Interference R Us. Hack, hack, hack. The “Russia collusion” investigations have dominated our headlines for months.
Elsewhere? “So far, the results of U.S. sanctions initiatives have been mixed. Iran agreed to a nuclear deal as its economy crumbled under the weight of a combination of U.S. and international sanctions. But the government in Pyongyang [North Korea] appears unperturbed by the accumulation of U.S. – and UN – imposed sanctions against it due to its longstanding isolation from U.S. and international financial markets. Some individuals and organizations have modified their behavior to get off the U.S. sanctions list, while others operate in the shadows under alternative aliases to circumvent accompanying financial restrictions.” The Cipher Brief.
Perhaps the best parts of “sanctions” combines occasional victories (the Iran accord) with a powerful tool that is whole lot less provocative than out-and-out war. And if sanctions don’t cut it, welcome to the growing world of false-news-propaganda, hacks and cyberattacks, economic chaos and collapsing power grids… or is that new definition of “war”? The Trump administration is now thinking about sanctioning Venezuela. Will Maduro endure?
I’m Peter Dekom, and there is an increasing awareness of alternatives to blowing up your enemy against we seem to be wildly unprepared.