The U.S. Supersizes Its Sanctions

Dec 6, 2018 | 11:00 GMT

This photo shows 10,000 Iranian rials on top of U.S. dollars.

This photo shows 10,000 Iranian rials on top of U.S. dollars. The United States has imposed some of its most wide-ranging sanctions ever against Iran, leaving the rest of the globe scrambling to address Washington's unilateralism.



  • The United States has already imposed some of the broadest economic sanctions ever against Iran, but it is likely to turn up the heat even more in the year to come.
  • Given the United States' proclivity to go it alone in imposing sanctions under the current administration, the country could eventually impose significant unilateral sanctions on countries other than Iran.
  • Increasingly unilateral action by the United States is leading others, like the European Union, to explore ways to dilute the U.S. push, but as long as the U.S. financial system remains at the heart of the global financial system, that pushback will have limited success.

Nearly a century ago, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson laid out the case for economic sanctions as he defended the League of Nations. To Wilson, it was the economic aspect of World War I that had helped defeat Germany. Moreover, it was the United States -- now truly a global military and economic power -- that had to take a seat at the international table so that it could use its economic heft to help prevent another crisis. Ironically, of course, Wilson's own country never joined the League of Nations, as it was not yet ready to play an active role on the global stage. After World War II, however, the United States finally began to engage with the world, capitalizing on its status as a global superpower to impose economic sanctions in lieu of armed conflict, thereby aiding it in achieving its foreign policy objectives. But since the 9/11 attacks,...

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