Embargoes and sanctions on Iraq

Information on embargoes on Iraq and how to apply for an export licence.

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This guide contains information about embargoes and sanctions on Iraq, and provides information for exporters. You can find more general information here on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions and a list of all the countries where there are current restrictions.

Governments control the export of goods for different reasons depending on the nature and destinations of the proposed exports. The export of strategic goods and technologies are controlled for various reasons including:

  • concerns about a country’s internal repression of its citizens, regional instability and other human rights violations
  • concerns about the development of weapons of mass destruction
  • foreign policy and international treaty commitments including as a result of the imposition of EU or United Nations (UN) trade sanctions or arms embargoes
  • the national and collective security of the UK and its allies

An arms embargo is in force on Iraq. This is both a UN and EU imposed embargo and has been implemented in UK law.

Export control updates

If you intend to export to Iraq, you should keep yourself well informed of the current situation through the media and other information channels.

To keep informed of latest updates about arms embargoes and changes to strategic export control legislation, please subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters.

Extent of the arms embargo on Iraq

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of ‘arms and related material’ - eg military ammunition, weapons and goods - imposed by either the UN, the EU, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) or at a UK national level.

The UK generally interprets an arms embargo as covering all goods and items on the UK Military List (which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists), unless stated otherwise.

Additionally some goods which are not on the UK Military List might also need an export licence. Read the guide on Military end-use control.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1546 (2004) has exempted supplies to the government of Iraq and the multinational force. UK legislation prohibits the supply to all end-users in Iraq, but applications for an export licence will be considered favourably where the person receiving the goods is either the government of Iraq or multinational force.

Applying for an export licence to Iraq

Exporters can apply for an export licence for their goods. All applications will be considered by the government on a case-by-case basis in line with the provisions of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Read the guide on assessment of export licence applications: criteria and policy.

You can also read the guide on licences: export, trade control and transhipment for information on different export licences you may be able to use.

When applying for a licence, you should be aware of the current licence processing times by destination. You can view details of licensing statistics on the ECO reports and statistics website.

In applying and using any licence, exporters should be aware of their responsibilities. For more information, see the guide on compliance and enforcement of export controls.

If you are unsure if your goods are controlled, you should read the guide about strategic exports: when to request an export licence.

Iraq arms embargo key legislation

The arms embargo on Iraq has been imposed by UN and EU laws, and adopted in UK law.

UN Security Council Resolutions

The UN originally imposed sanctions on Iraq (via UN Security Council Resolution 661) following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

With the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003, the UN issued UNSCR 1483 in May 2003. This resolution declared the lifting of trade sanctions, apart from the arms embargo which remained in force.

This resolution has subsequently been amended via UNSCR 1546 (2004) which declared that the restrictions are lifted for arms or related material required by the government of Iraq or the multinational force. Restrictions remain in force on other end users. 

You can access copies of UN resolutions on the UN Security Council website.

EU legislation

The EU issued its own arms embargo on Iraq, following the UN Security Council’s resolutions condemning the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The EU’s position is now outlined in the following declarations:

You can find Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) legislation on the European Commission website.

UK legislation

The relevant statutory instruments implemented in UK law are:

For more information, see the guide on the Export Control Order 2008. You can access copeis of any UK legislation on the website.

Other restrictions on Iraq

Iraq is also subject to other sanctions. UNSCR 687 (1991) reaffirmed that Iraq was liable for direct loss, damage or injury to foreign governments, nationals and corporations as a result of its invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990, and created a fund to pay out claims for compensation. The terms of the compensation payments have been amended by subsequent UNSCRs. Iraq is in the process of paying $52 billion in compensation to Kuwait.

Furthermore, there is a prohibition on the trade in or transfer of items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance which are reasonably suspected of having been illegally removed from Iraq, and a freeze on financial assets or economic resources belonging to the previous Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein and those associated with his regime (including their family members). Both of these sanctions were put in place by UNSCR 1483 (2003), and the terms of the latter have been amended by subsequent UNSCRs.

This summary of Iraq sanctions is intended to provide an overview only. If you believe you may have legal obligations as a result of these measures, you should seek independent legal advice.

You can view a current list of asset freeze targets designated by the UN, EU and UK, under legislation relating to Iraq.

Further information

UK Trade and Investment enquiry line

020 7215 8000

ECJU helpline

020 7215 4594, email

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Security Council resolutions on the UN website

Official Journal of the EU on the Europa website

A to Z countries listing on GOV.UK

Financial sanctions guidance on the HM Treasury website

ECO performance reports and statistics on the ECO reports and statistics website

Published 14 August 2012
Last updated 25 July 2013 + show all updates
  1. Updated details of other restrictions on Iraq.
  2. Included links to financial sanctions content on GOV.UK
  3. First published.