Sanctions Top-5 for the week ending 21 August 2020

Nicholas Turner
3 min readAug 25, 2020


Here are five things that happened this week in the world of economic sanctions that I think you should know about.

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  1. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the United Nations Security Council that the US government would attempt to trigger the “snapback” provision of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to prevent the lifting of the UN arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October 2020. (More on this below.)
  2. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named two UAE-based companies and one Iranian national in the UAE as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) pursuant to Executive Order 13224 for procuring and delivering US-origin aircraft parts for Iran’s Mahan Air. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) simultaneously announced charges against the individual and one of the companies for violating US export controls and sanctions.
  3. The European Council announced that EU leaders agreed to prepare new sanctions against individuals in Belarus “responsible for violence, repression, and election fraud” following the country’s disputed presidential election on 9 August 2020. The US State Department issued a statement in support “of the aspirations of the Bearusian people.” In June 2020, the President renewed a US national emergency under Executive Order 13405 of 16 June 2006, authorizing blocking sanctions in relation to Belarus.
  4. OFAC named four Ugandan individuals, including two judges and a lawyer, as SDNs under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program pursuant to Executive Order 13813 for their roles in a bribery scheme leading to fraudulent adoptions of Ugandan-born children. Meanwhile, the DOJ charged the Ugandan lawyer and one US national for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other laws in connection with the scheme.
  5. OFAC announced the designation of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s press officer and her husband, a prominent member of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, as SDNs pursuant to Executive Order 13573. Meanwhile, the State Department announced the designation of one of Assad’s “henchman” and three military officials under Executive Order 13894.


Secretary Pompeo explained in a news conference that the US government considers the political commitments made in the JCPOA to be separate from UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which implements the agreement. Essentially, the United States is arguing that Resolution 2231, by its terms, gives the United States the right to continue participating in the sanctioning process as a member of the UN Security Council, despite the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018. (The diplomatic equivalent of tearing up your ticket after the train’s left the station.) I have to admit, to me, it’s not a terrible argument, albeit cheeky to the extreme. And, personally, I would rather see this worked out in the Security Council than outside of it.

Join me, Justine Walker, John Smith, Peter Harrell, and Melissa Duffy for a lively webinar on Hong Kong sanctions, WeChat, TikTok, and more, hosted by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) today, Tuesday, 25 August, at 11:00 p.m. Hong Kong time / 11:00 a.m. New York time. Register here. You can read Justine’s Industry Briefing Paper on the subject here.

But wait, there’s more. Check out the RegTech Asia 2020 virtual conference hosted by Regulation Asia, 2–3 September 2020. Ola Fundowicz and I will speak about “Sanctions and PEP Screening” on a panel moderated by Manesh Samtani. Register here.

Did I miss something? Send me a message or comment on LinkedIn.

(The views expressed are my own and do not constitute legal advice. Photo from Vladislav Reshetnyak.)



Nicholas Turner

US attorney in Hong Kong specializing in economic sanctions, financial crimes. This is an archive of briefings published between 2017 and 2022.