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.

15th June 2018 – The Hill

Trump must still hold North Korea accountable for cyberattacks

Trevor Logan, Mathew Ha

Following the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore earlier this week, Kim Jong Un has temporarily halted ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing in exchange for President Trump pausing its maximum pressure campaign. Meanwhile, Pyongyang’s cyberattacks against South Korea have intensified. In their latest op-ed for The Hill, FDD research associates Trevor Logan and Mathew Ha point out how this is just one example that exposes Kim’s “two-faced diplomacy.” more...

Analysis & Commentary

1st June 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

Gulf States Crack Down on Iran’s Illicit Finance

Annie Fixler , Varsha Koduvayur

Sixty members of the Iranian parliament sent President Hassan Rouhani a letter last week demanding that the Islamic Republic reconsider its ties with the United Arab Emirates due to what they deemed a hostile stance towards Tehran. Iran has reason to be nervous about its financial relations not only with the UAE, but also with the rest of the Arab Gulf. more...

25th May 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

Elimination of NSC Cybersecurity Post Weakens Interagency Coordination

Elimination of NSC Cybersecurity Post Weakens Interagency Coordination

Annie Fixler , Trevor Logan

Last week, the White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council (NSC) staff. This decision comes at a time when cyber threats are expanding and the federal government needs the interagency process to help coordinate the implementation of new cyber strategies. more...

18th May 2018 – FDD Policy Brief

Turkish Banker Sentenced for Iran Sanctions-Busting Scheme

Turkish Banker Sentenced for Iran Sanctions-Busting Scheme

Aykan Erdemir

A Manhattan court Wednesday sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy general manager of Turkey’s second-largest public lender, Halkbank, to 32 months in prison for his role in a multi-billion dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. more...

16th May 2018 – The National Interest

Return of the Sanctions: Banks Should Steer Clear of the Central Bank of Iran

Return of the Sanctions: Banks Should Steer Clear of the Central Bank of Iran

Annie Fixler , Behnam Ben Taleblu

The U.S. Treasury Department has set its crosshairs on two more Iranian illicit finance schemes. Late last week, Washington designated a network spanning Iran and the United Arab Emirates that had “procured and transferred millions in U.S. dollar-denominated bulk cash” for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF), according to the Treasury Department’s press statement. more...