Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Terrorism remains the most important national security concern. Multi-national economic organizations around the world have increasingly established counter-terrorism commissions to assess the magnitude of the threat posed by terrorism. Economic sanctions have been a counter-terrorism measure for many decades and remain an essential tool of U.S. foreign policy and a mechanism to protect the U.S. national security interests. In recent years, the internationalization of terrorism and emergence of non-state terrorist actors has led the U.S. to use smart targeted sanctions to dismantle financial support of terrorism. Yet, conventional country-specific nation-wide sanctions that penalize a single target nation, continue to be used de-spite their limited success.

Nation-wide sanctions operate on the theory that by depressing the economy of the target country, and to a certain extent its leadership, the tar-get county will have no choice but to comply with the policy objective of the sanction imposing country. However, there is growing evidence of an in-verse relationship between the length of the sanctions and their effective-ness. Moreover, justifications for the use of nation-wide sanctions to punish countries supporting terrorism has become obsolete. Today, we are witnessing the internationalization of terrorism and emergence of non-state adversaries. Hence, imposing nation-wide sanctions that are overreaching and punish society as whole is inconsistent with today’s realities. Furthermore, the negative effects of nation-wide sanctions on the socioeconomic conditions of the target country help establish a setting for dissatisfaction amongst the citizens of the target country and hostility towards the sanction imposing country that encourages ideological extremism and terrorism. For this rea-son, nation-wide sanctions should only used as a short-term measure, not as a permanent solution to terrorism. For economic sanctions to function as a successful counter-terrorism policy, they must use a combination of smart sanction and antipoverty initiatives.