Enigma recently released the Sanctions Tracker, a site exploring the past 20 years of sanctions history. As sanctions are an area of foreign policy in which presidents have significant direct control (and impact), we’ve chosen to highlight how sanctions have been used by the past three presidents — and track in real-time how President Trump leverages sanctions to advance his policy goals.
As President Trump’s first 100 days draw to a close, we analyzed the first round of changes he made to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) sanctions list. Note: the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) data starts halfway through Clinton’s first term, which prevents us from analyzing Clinton’s (or any earlier president’s) first 100 days in office.
To begin, we compared the sanctions programs Trump expanded with the sanctions priorities of his predecessors. We analyzed the composition of each president’s additions, rather than overall counts, as raw volumes do not indicate the relative importance of each program (and would make comparisons between presidents less meaningful).
Sanctions on Syria make up the bulk of Trump’s sanction additions in his first 100 days, largely due to the addition of hundreds of employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) after the country’s chemical weapons attack. Trump also focused new sanctions on Iran, Terrorism, and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
While only a small proportion of Trump’s new sanctions concern Narcotics Trafficking (1%), this program was the top priority for both Obama and Bush in their first 100 days.
In fact, Bush only added entities associated with narcotics trafficking to the sanctions list. Well, entity, singular. Turns out, he only added one person to the list during his first 100 days: a Victor Hugo Patiño Fomeque, on April 24th, 2001.
We also took a look at which presidents’ sanctions Trump removed during his first 100 days in office. Since we are able to identify when sanctions were both added and removed from the list, we can pinpoint which president added those sanctions to the list originally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority (65%) of removals were sanctions originally added under Obama.
Visit our Sanctions Tracker to explore how U.S. sanctions programs have evolved over the past 20 years. See the global reach of the programs with our interactive map visualization or get a full rundown on sanctions by type or administration. You can also subscribe to receive alerts as new sanctions are added (or removed).