The UN Security Council has approved the “strongest sanctions ever” against North Korea. These include a two million barrel cap on North Korean imports of crude oil, sanctions on the import of natural gas, on North Korean textile exports, and on the issuance of new permits for North Koreans seeking to work abroad. On their face, these are indeed tough sanctions. They are not, however, the “strongest sanctions ever” passed by the Security Council.
The sanctions on Iran prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—were considerably tougher. The UN banned Iran from participating in any activities related to ballistic missiles; imposed travel bans on individuals involved with the program; froze the funds and assets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and recommended that states inspect Iranian cargo; prohibited the servicing of Iranian vessels involved in prohibited activities; prevented the provision of financial services used for sensitive nuclear activities, closely watched Iranian individuals and entities when dealing with them; prohibited the opening of Iranian banks on their territory; prevented Iranian banks from entering into relationship with their banks if it might contribute to the nuclear program, and prevented financial institutions operating in their territory from opening offices and accounts in Iran. Many observers believe that the financial sanctions in particular were what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. Many of the sanctions, especially regarding ballistic missiles, continue to remain in force.