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Essay on American Sanctions

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Sanctions are defined as economic or political actions taken by one country or group of countries against another country or group of countries. Sanctions are used as a tool to exert pressure on a country to change its behavior or policies. One of the countries that use sanctions as a foreign policy tool is the United States. The US has imposed sanctions on several countries over the years, including Iran, North Korea, and Russia, among others. In this essay, we will explore the concept of American sanctions and their impact on the targeted countries.

History of American Sanctions:

The US has been using economic sanctions as a tool of foreign policy for over a century. The first instance of American sanctions can be traced back to the late 19th century when the US imposed sanctions on Hawaii. Since then, the US has used sanctions against several countries for various reasons. In the 20th century, the US imposed sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, among others.

Impact of American Sanctions:

The impact of American sanctions on the targeted countries can be significant. Sanctions can hurt the economy of the targeted country and its citizens, leading to a decline in living standards. Sanctions can also lead to political instability in the targeted country, as the government may be unable to provide basic services to its citizens due to the economic sanctions. Furthermore, sanctions can also have a negative impact on the global economy as trade between countries is disrupted.

Examples of American Sanctions:

One of the most high-profile instances of American sanctions in recent years is the sanctions on Iran. The US imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. The sanctions targeted Iran’s oil and banking sectors and had a significant impact on Iran’s economy. The sanctions led to a decline in Iran’s oil exports and caused the value of the Iranian currency to plummet. As a result, the living standards of the Iranian people were severely affected.

Another example of American sanctions is the sanctions on North Korea. The US has imposed several rounds of sanctions on North Korea over the years in an attempt to force the country to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The sanctions have had a significant impact on North Korea’s economy, as the country is heavily dependent on foreign trade.

American sanctions are a tool used by the United States to achieve foreign policy objectives. They are designed to restrict the ability of targeted individuals, entities, or countries to conduct transactions with U.S. persons or entities. Sanctions can range from economic restrictions, such as the freezing of assets or the prohibition of trade, to diplomatic measures, such as travel bans or diplomatic isolation.

There are a variety of reasons why the U.S. government imposes sanctions. These include promoting human rights, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, combatting terrorism, and responding to aggression by other countries. Some critics argue that sanctions can be ineffective or counterproductive, while others maintain that they are a valuable tool in achieving foreign policy objectives.

One of the most high-profile examples of American sanctions is the current U.S. sanctions against Iran. In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a multilateral agreement that had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear program. The U.S. subsequently reimposed economic sanctions on Iran, including restrictions on the country’s oil exports and financial transactions.

These sanctions have had a significant impact on the Iranian economy. The value of the country’s currency has plummeted, and inflation has skyrocketed. The sanctions have also affected Iran’s ability to import food, medicine, and other necessities. Some argue that these sanctions are causing undue harm to the Iranian people, while others maintain that they are necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Another example of American sanctions is the current U.S. sanctions against Russia. The U.S. and other Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea and involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. These sanctions have targeted individuals and entities close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as key sectors of the Russian economy, such as energy and finance.

These sanctions have had a significant impact on the Russian economy. The value of the country’s currency has dropped, and capital flight has increased. However, some argue that the sanctions have not been effective in changing Russian behavior and have instead led to a hardening of attitudes among the Russian leadership.

Additionally, American sanctions are a controversial tool used by the U.S. government to achieve foreign policy objectives. While they can be effective in achieving certain goals, such as preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, they can also be harmful to the economies and populations of targeted countries. It is important for policymakers to carefully consider the costs and benefits of sanctions before imposing them.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the United States imposes a wide range of sanctions on countries, individuals, and entities around the world. As of September 2021, there were approximately 8,700 individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list. In addition, the United States has imposed sanctions on 28 countries, including Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela. The use of sanctions has been a controversial issue, with critics arguing that they harm innocent civilians and lead to humanitarian crises, while supporters argue that they are an effective tool for promoting national security and foreign policy objectives.

The economic impact of U.S. sanctions is also significant. According to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States’ sanctions on Venezuela have led to a 31% reduction in the country’s GDP since 2013. In addition, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that U.S. sanctions on Russia have cost the Russian economy $6 billion to $10 billion per year. The sanctions on Iran have also had a significant impact on the country’s economy, with estimates suggesting that they have cost Iran around $160 billion since they were first imposed in 2010.

On the other hand, supporters argue that sanctions have been effective in achieving their intended goals. For example, U.S. sanctions on North Korea have been credited with bringing the country to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. Similarly, sanctions on Iran were seen as a key factor in bringing about the 2015 nuclear deal.

In conclusion, American sanctions have had significant economic and political impacts on countries and individuals around the world. While their effectiveness and ethical implications remain a topic of debate, it is clear that they will continue to be a key tool in U.S. foreign policy.


In conclusion, American sanctions are a tool used by the US government to influence the behavior of other countries. While sanctions can have a significant impact on the targeted countries, they can also have negative consequences for the global economy. It is important for countries to use sanctions judiciously and to consider the impact on the citizens of the targeted country.