Updated August 2, 2017
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
On August 2, 2017, President Trump signed into law H.R.
3364/P.L. 115-44, the Countering America’s Adversaries
Through Sanctions Act. The act establishes requirements
and discretionary authorities for the President to impose
sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea.
In signing the act, the President stated that several
provisions overstep Congress’s responsibilities established
in the Constitution. The President identified as problematic
the sections that could affect his authority to determine who
gains entry into the United States (§§104, 107, 222, 224,
227, 228, 234), to recognize foreign governments (§§253,
257), or to conduct foreign policy (§§254, 257). He also
noted that the congressional review procedure for Russia
sanctions, established in §216, does not meet Constitutional
requirements for each branch’s full participation in enacting
and implementing legislation (https://www.whitehouse.gov/
Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities
Act of 2017
Title I of the act addresses Iran’s missile proliferation,
human rights violations, international terrorism, and
activities that destabilize the Middle East. A key question is
how the provisions of the act comport with U.S. sanctions
relief requirements of the July 2015 multilateral nuclear
agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
(JCPOA). According to that agreement, sanctions lifted to
implement the JCPOA—affecting Iran’s civilian economy,
such as its energy, banking, shipping, manufacturing, and
other sectors—are not to be reimposed. The act’s Iranrelated provisions mandate sanctions already established in
executive orders (EOs) that address proliferation, terrorism,
and human rights issues and do not appear to reimpose U.S.
sanctions that were suspended to implement the JCPOA.
The main operative provisions
require imposition of penalties similar to those in EO
13382 (weapons proliferation) on entities determined by
the Administration to be assisting Iran’s ballistic missile
require imposition of sanctions contained in EO 13224
(terrorism) on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC), its officials, agents, and affiliates. Currently,
the IRGC as a whole is sanctioned under several other
EOs, including EO 13382 (proliferation), but not under
EO 13224. The IRGC’s Qods Force, which supports
pro-Iranian governments and factions throughout the
Middle East, is designated under EO 13224 (§105).
authorize, but do not require, sanctions (such as those in
EO 13553 on human rights abusers) on persons
responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other
gross violations of internationally recognized human
rights in Iran. The section has the effect of expanding
the authority of EO 13553, which generally refers to
human rights abuses against Iranians in connection
specifically with the 2009 uprising in Iran (§106).
require sanctions (those in EO 13382) on entities that
sell weapons to Iran. The weapons systems specified are
the same as those that U.N. Security Council Resolution
2231 generally prohibits for sale to Iran. The provision
appears to expand the definition of prohibited weapons
sales to Iran beyond those in current law, such as the
Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, which imposes
sanctions on those who trade in “destabilizing numbers
and types” of conventional weapons (§107).
require review of designated entities to assess if such
entities contribute to Iran’s ballistic missile program or
to Iranian support for international terrorism. No entities
to be delisted by the United States in October 2023,
under the JCPOA, appear to fall into these categories;
thus the requirement would not appear to preclude
delisting any entities as required to implement the
JCPOA by October 2023 (§108).
Countering Russian Influence in Europe
and Eurasia Act of 2017
Title II strengthens Ukraine- and cyber-related sanctions on
Russia, currently established in executive orders. It requires
the President to impose sanctions in areas that are currently
left to his discretion for activities discussed below, and
establishes a mechanism for Congress to review any action
the President takes to ease or lift sanctions.
Codifying and Tightening Existing Sanctions
The act makes permanent Ukraine-related sanctions
provided for in four EOs from 2014 (EOs 13660, 13661,
13662, 13685) unless certain conditions are met and
Congress reviews any proposed changes (§222). The act
also makes permanent cyber-related sanctions provided for
in EO 13694 related to malicious cyber-enabled activities,
as amended by EO 13757, which expands the scope of the
original order to include election-related activities (§222).
The act strengthens sectoral sanctions provided for in EO
13662 to prohibit persons under U.S. jurisdiction from
providing goods, services, and technology in support of
exploration or production for deepwater, Arctic offshore,
and shale oil projects in Russian territory to such projects
worldwide that involve any designated persons that have an
ownership interest of not less than 33 percent (§223).
The act restricts new lending to designated financial
institutions to a maturity of up to 14 days (down from 30
days) and to designated energy companies to a maturity of
no more than 60 days (down from 90 days) (§223).
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
The act enlarges the scope of prohibited cyber-related
activities to include a range of activities conducted on
behalf of the Russian government that undermine the
cybersecurity of any U.S. or foreign person (§224).
Mandating Existing Discretionary Sanctions
The act (§225, §226) requires sanctions—currently
discretionary, under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of
2014 (P.L. 113-272)—on foreign persons who make “a
significant investment” in special oil projects in Russia, and
on foreign financial institutions that fund such projects;
foreign financial institutions that engage in transactions
related to defense articles that end up in Syria, or in
Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova (or other countries as
designated by the President) without the consent of their
governments; and foreign financial institutions that engage
in transactions for any person subject to Ukraine-related
The act makes mandatory sanctions that are currently
discretionary, under the Support for the Sovereignty,
Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine
Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-95). These sanctions target Russian
government officials, associates, family members, and
others responsible for committing or facilitating acts of
Requiring New Sanctions
The act requires sanctions on foreign persons who violate
sanctions, facilitate transactions for designated persons and
their relatives (§228), are responsible for or support serious
human rights abuses in territory Russia occupies or controls
(§228), or provide support to Syria (§234).
The act also requires restrictions on U.S. or foreign persons
who engage in significant transactions with persons related
to Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors (§231), or make
or facilitate investments of $10 million or more that
contribute to Russia’s privatization of state-owned assets
where the privatization is a factor in corruption (§233).
Authorizing New Discretionary Sanctions
The act authorizes, but does not require, sanctions on U.S.
or foreign persons who trade or make investments of a
certain value that enhance Russia’s ability to construct
energy export pipelines (§232).
The act adds to each existing legislative and executive
branch action referred to in Title II—including the blocking
of Russian access to diplomatic compounds in Maryland
and New York—specific conditions that the President
would certify have been met when he takes steps to waive
or terminate a restriction, at which point Congress could
adopt a Joint Resolution of Disapproval to block the
President’s decision. Congress, however, is not required to
approve the President’s actions. If Congress agrees with the
President, he could ease or lift sanctions without Congress
weighing in. Each existing sanction, and modifications or
additional requirements to impose new sanctions stated in
the act, would be subject to congressional review under
Section 216 before they could be waived or terminated.
Korean Interdiction and Modernization
of Sanctions Act
Title III strengthens the use of sanctions—in part by
amending the North Korea Sanctions and Policy
Enhancement Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-122)—on those who
facilitate North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile
programs. It both requires and authorizes sanctions on those
who evade U.N. sanctions, use DPRK exported labor,
provide correspondent banking, or trade in DPRK’s exports
in fuel, textiles, food and agricultural products.
Possible Designation as a State Sponsor of
The act requires the Secretary of State to determine, within
90 days, whether DPRK “meets the criteria for designation
as a state sponsor of terrorism” (§324).
The act expands the categories of activities of those whom
the President must designate as subject to sanctions, to
include those who purchase various precious metals and
rare earth elements from DPRK; provide to DPRK fuel and
related services, vessel registration, or insurance; or
maintain a correspondent bank account with any DPRK
financial institution (§311(a)).
In addition, the act names specific entities for which
Congress requires a determination as to whether each
should be subject to sanctions under the 2016 Act
(§311(d)); denies access to the U.S. financial systems to
any foreign financial institution that is indirectly providing
banking services to a North Korean entity or person subject
to sanctions (§312); and restricts U.S. foreign aid to any
foreign government found not to be in compliance with
UNSC sanctions requirements (§313).
The act requires the President to identify foreign seaports
and airports that fail to adequately inspect and interdict
vessels (authorizing seizure of such vessels); names a
number of ports in China, Iran, Russia, and Syria in which
Congress is particularly interested (§314); and blocks U.S.
importation of goods made by slave labor (§321).
The act authorizes the President to impose sanctions on
those who violate UN Security Council sanctions
requirements related to DPRK; acquire coal, iron, or iron
ore from DPRK in excess of UNSC limits; acquire textiles,
fishing rights, food, agricultural products; hire exported
labor; trade in property or bulk cash, precious metals, or
gemstones; sell fuel to DPRK; engage in online commercial
activities run by the North Korean government; engage in
DPRK’s transportation, mining, energy, or financial
services sectors; or facilitate the opening and operation of a
DPRK financial institution (§311(b)).
Dianne E. Rennack, Specialist in Foreign Policy
Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
Cory Welt, Analyst in European Affairs
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
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