Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance

About the Center:

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF) expands upon FDD’s success as a leading think tank on the use of financial and economic measures in national security. The Center’s purpose is to provide policy and subject matter expertise in areas of illicit finance, financial power, and economic pressure to the global policy community.

The Center is led by Mark Dubowitz, Juan Zarate, Chip Poncy, and Jonathan Schanzer.

CSIF seeks to illuminate the critical intersection between the full range of illicit finance activities and national security, including money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions evasion, proliferation financing, cyber crime and economic espionage, and corruption and kleptocracy. This includes understanding how America can best use and preserve its financial and economic power to promote its interests and the integrity of the financial system. The Center also examines how America’s adversaries may be leveraging economic tools and power.

CSIF’s core goals are as follows:

  1. Promoting greater understanding of illicit financing and economic threats, vulnerabilities, and warfare, especially as they evolve and threaten U.S. interests;
  2. Designing creative and effective strategies, doctrines, and uses of financial and economic power to attack and protect against priority threats and vulnerabilities; and
  3. Catalyzing global action, in both the public and private sectors, to advance security and address core challenges to effective implementation of financial power.

CSIF achieves these goals by:

  1. Researching, analyzing, and developing products to identify priority illicit financing and economic vulnerabilities and counter-illicit financing challenges;
  2. Devising strategies, policies, and options to isolate specific rogue targets, networks, and regimes;
  3. Creating plans and options to address emerging economic vulnerabilities; and
  4. Sponsoring events and interacting with communities of interest to promote effective implementation and action.

CSIF focuses on global illicit finance, including the financing of terrorism, weapons and nuclear proliferation, corruption, and environmental crime. It has a particular emphasis on Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Russia, and other autocratic states as well as drug cartels and terrorist groups including the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

The Center relies on regional and sanctions expertise within FDD including a core cadre of financial, economic, and area experts and analysts. CSIF is guided by a senior, expert Board of Advisors, that provides strategic guidance, leads initiatives, and assists in outreach. It also relies on key partnerships and expert service providers and engages a range of stakeholders to amplify the depth and reach of its work.

CSIF works to expand the understanding of illicit finance threats to America’s national security and the nature of economic warfare in the 21st century in order to develop further the strategies of American financial suasion.

Treasury Sanctions Chinese and Russian IT Companies Funding North Korea

14th September 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

Treasury Sanctions Chinese and Russian IT Companies Funding North Korea

Mathew Ha

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a Chinese information technology (IT) company, its North Korean chief executive, and a related Russian firm for generating funds on North Korea’s behalf by employing exported labor. This is the first time Washington has employed its authority to designate targets for generating funds with exported labor. However, it is the second time in less than a week that Treasury has designated an IT firm acting on Pyongyang’s behalf. more...

Analysis & Commentary

12th September 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

New Reports of Abuse Reinforce Case for Sanctions on Iran’s Prisons

New Reports of Abuse Reinforce Case for Sanctions on Iran’s Prisons

Tzvi Kahn

An exiled Iranian Dervish activist accused Tehran on Saturday of violating its own prison regulations by allowing seven Dervish women to suffer “appalling” conditions in jail. “The Dervish women are weak physically after having been beaten before and after their transfer to the prison,” said Alireza Roshan, whose community practices a form of Islam considered deviant by the clerical regime. more...

10th September 2018 – FDD Research Memo

Major Global Companies are Leaving Iran to Avoid U.S. Sanctions: FDD Study

David Adesnik, Saeed Ghasseminejad

Major international corporations are leaving Iran rather than face the risk of unilateral U.S. sanctions, despite the efforts of European governments to neutralize the sanctions’ impact, according to a new report issued today by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). more...

7th September 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

Treasury Imposes Sanctions on Assad’s Oil Traders

Treasury Imposes Sanctions on Assad’s Oil Traders

David Adesnik

The U.S. Department of the Treasury struck yesterday at one of the most important lifelines of the Assad regime by imposing targeted financial sanctions on key figures responsible for the illicit import and export of oil products, long prohibited by U.S. and EU sanctions. more...

7th September 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

U.S. Presses Criminal Charges and Sanctions against North Korean Cyber Operative

U.S. Presses Criminal Charges and Sanctions against North Korean Cyber Operative

Mathew Ha

Yesterday, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned North Korean computer programmer Park Jin Hyok for malicious state-sponsored cyber activity while the Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against Park for the same actions. more...