Economic Sanctions and International Terrorism

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 20, p. 289, 1987

40 Pages Posted: 18 May 2009

Date Written: 1987


Economic sanctions have become a prominent part of the American response to foreign state involvement in international terrorism. Since the early 1970s, a series of Congressional statutes has authorized or required the Executive to curtail a broad range of economic relationships with countries the Secretary of State has determined to be supporters of terrorism, a group that now includes Libya, Syria, South Yemen, Iran and Cuba and earlier included Iraq. Under these statutes, the United States has restricted all forms of foreign assistance, Eximbank and OPIC financing, arms sales, commercial exports and imports, trade preferences, air transportation and other transactions with one or more of the designated states.

Understanding and evaluating antiterrorism sanctions is no easy task. Terrorism and state support for terrorism are complex, sometimes ambiguous phenomena. Economic sanctions can also be complex and subtle instruments. Sanctions against terrorism, then, involve complexity compounded by complexity.

This article takes a step toward clarifying these matters by presenting a framework for the analysis of antiterrorism sanctions and using that framework to discuss several of the sanctions that the United States currently employs. The preliminary analysis in this article suggests that when one considers all of their functions, economic sanctions can play a valuable role, at least at the margin, in a national strategy against international terrorism. At the same time, their effects will frequently be small, especially in the short run, while their costs and risks are likely to be substantial.

Keywords: Terrorism, International relations, Sanctions

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne, Economic Sanctions and International Terrorism (1987). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 20, p. 289, 1987. Available at SSRN:

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

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