International Sanctions – What to Expect in 2017

January 6, 2017 3 minute read

Sanctions were very much the “go-to” foreign policy tool of choice for actors on the world stage in 2016. Although 2017 is unlikely to be as unpredictable as 2016 it could be equally as volatile for global sanctions regimes. ComplyAdvantage assesses the events and personalities that will shape sanctions in 2017.


Sanctions against Russia will be an early testing ground for the new power dynamics in the West in 2017. Donald Trump’s recent cabinet appointments and tweets suggest that he will at least relax sanctions against Russia, but could remove them entirely. Either would undermine the EU’s efforts to tighten sanctions against Russia, as lasting ceasefire in the Ukraine remains elusive. These contradictions in actions will weaken the impact of EU sanctions against Russia, as sanctioned Russians could just reroute their financial activity through the US. For now both the EU and the UK have extended their current sanctions against Russia well into 2017. Trump’s intentions and his cabinet may well have changed by the time they expire – but this is unlikely.


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more colloquially known as The Iranian Nuclear Deal was implemented in January 2016 bringing in a period of optimism for Iranian sanction watchers. Trade sanctions were relaxed, allowing companies such as Boeing to embark on a trade deal worth $16.6 billion. Then in December 2016 the US Congress renewed the Iranian Sanction Pact for another 15 years, causing President Rouhani to accuse the US of going against the intentions of JCPOA and threatening to develop nuclear powered marine vessels in response. All of this means we enter 2017 on unsure footing for the status of US sanctions against Iran. Trump is considerably less progressive than Obama when it comes to Iran so it is probably fair to argue that if JCPOA begins to fall to apart in 2017, Trump will do little to pick up the pieces.

North Korea

In 2016 North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. Unsurprisingly, this did not go unnoticed by the international community and now it is under a strict sanctions regime. The most recent round of sanctions issued in showed the patience of the international community and especially China beginning to wear thin. If in North Korea continues to test its nuclear technology we should see even stricter sanctions. These will have increasing levels of  support from China – who knows it must pick the battles it fights in its backyard (or sea) wisely.


2016 saw two momentous events in Cuba – the first visit of a sitting US President in 85 years and the death of Fidel Castro. Both events would suggest the growing potential to further thaw US-Cuban relations and as a result remove remaining trade sanctions against the island. However, the election of President Trump has to an extent doused these hopes. As Trump tweeted after Castro’s death his intention to maintain the current set of trade sanctions. Due to this 2017 will probably not contain the Cuban trade revolution that it could have (read more here).


The Syrian conflict will continue into 2017 and sanctions against the key players will remain in place. However, there could be scope for expansion of sanctions as international pressure to end the conflict continues to grow. As Assad pushes eastward and the humanitarian situation worsens, the international community could push for more restrictive sanctions against his regime.

In light of these evaluations ComplyAdvantage recommends that companies protect themselves against what could be a rapidly changing landscape of sanctions. Especially as the UK introduces the Police and Crime Bill in 2017 which will strengthen the implementation and enforcement of sanctions. Our machine learning and artificial intelligence technology continuously monitors all sanctions and watch lists, updating our database within two hours of changes being issued – providing a more dynamic and up to date view than any other sanction screening provider. Our innovative screening technology can also help you identify potential sanction concerns whilst minimizing the manual work typically associated with ‘false positives’.