This thesis investigates the interaction of sender countries (SC) and target countries (TC) in an economic sanctions episode. It conceives of each sanctions event as a game between two free thinking players, out to win, which the international relations theory of Realism best explains. After examining the historical success rates of sanctions cases using large and small N studies in the literature, it seeks to identify those sender vulnerabilities that TCs exploit in order to prevail.

This work utilizes two case studies, Libya and Iraq, of sanctions episodes with the US as sanctions leader or leading sender. It breaks down each episode into multiple sanctions events. Having done that, the study next looks at the actions, reactions and counteractions that each side takes in order to gain and maintain the initiative, and ultimately prevail. This work concludes that using multiple instruments of national power in a 'combines arms' approach helps both sides in gaining and maintaining the initiative and in winning the game. Until now, TCs have employed their instruments of national power more effectively than SCs. This study concludes that TCs succeed at defeating economic sanctions when they combine their instruments of national power in a more optimal way than do the SCs, when the US and Europe do not act together, when the TC has friendly borders, and when the leading sender's costs are low


Political Science Department

Degree Name

MA in Political Science

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Vikash Yadav

Committee Member 1

Bahgat Korany

Committee Member 2

Yasser Elwy

Document Type



167 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Economic sanctions

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Economic sanctions


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Call Number

Thesis 2005/59