- to signal disapproval of behavior by a certain actor,
- to maintain neutrality in an ongoing conflict, or
- to limit the ability of an actor to inflict violence on others,
- to weaken country's military capabilities before foreign intervention.
United States President Jimmy Carter imposed an arms embargo on the 1976 Argentinian Proceso de Reorganizacion Nacional (National Reorganization Process) military junta due to the Dirty War that took place from 1974 to 1983. The embargo was joined by the United Kingdom following the 1982 Falklands War. The ban was lifted in the 1990s after Argentina was named as a major non-NATO ally. During those years, Argentine armed forces shifted to Western European countries and Israel for supplies.
The United States government imposed an arms embargo against Indonesia in 1999 due to human rights violations in East Timor. The embargo was lifted in 2005.
The United States imposed economic sanctions against Iran following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. However, to secure the release of American hostages, several senior Reagan Administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran in the 1980s, in a scandal called the Iran–Contra affair. In 1995 the US expanded sanctions to include firms dealing with the Iranian government.
People's Republic of China
The United States and the European Union stopped exporting arms to China after 1989, due to the Chinese government's violent suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square. In 2004-05, there was some debate in the EU over whether to lift the embargo.
List of current arms embargoes
The countries included in the list are under arms embargo of the United Nations or another international organization (EU, OSCE and others) or country. In some cases the arms embargo is supplemented by a general trade embargo, other sanctions (financial) or travel ban for specific persons. In some cases the arms embargo applies to any entity residing or established in the country, but in others it is partial – the recognized government forces and international peacekeepers are exempted from the embargo.
- Armenia and Azerbaijan (by OSCE), 1992–2012 (only end for Azerbaijan)
- Central African Republic (by Security Council), 2013–
- Myanmar (by EU), 1990–
- People's Republic of China (by EU/US), 1989–
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (by UN, EU), 2003/1993– (UN/EU)
- Ivory Coast (by UN, EU), 2004-
- Eritrea (by UN, EU), 2010–
- Guinea (by EU), 2009–
- Iran (by UN, EU), 2006–
- Iraq (by UN, EU), 1990– (no longer in effect U.N. council brings Iraq closer to end of 1990s sanctions)
- Libya (by UN) 2011-
- North Korea (by UN, EU), arms and luxury goods, 2006–
- Lebanon (by UN, EU), 2006–
- Somalia (by UN, EU), 1992/2002– (UN/EU)
- South Sudan (by UN) 2018-
- Sudan (by UN, EU), 2004/1994– (UN/EU)
- Uzbekistan (by EU), 2005–2009 
- Zimbabwe (by EU), 2002–
- Rwanda (by UN in Resolution 918 and EU) (UN: 1994–2008, EU:)
- Sierra Leone (by UN and EU), 1997–2010
- Syria (by EU), 2011–2013
- Turkey (by USA) 1975–1978
- Vietnam (by US) 1984–1995
- Yugoslavia (by UN in Resolution 713 and EU) (UN/EU: September 1991):
- The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On. The National Security Archive (George Washington University), 2006-11-24
- Ariel Zirulnick (24 February 2011). "Sanction Qaddafi? How 5 nations have reacted to sanctions: Iran". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
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- https://www.academia.edu/5475879/The_EU_Arms_Embargo_on_China_a_Swedish_Perspective_2010_/ Hellström, Jerker (2010) "The EU Arms Embargo on China: a Swedish Perspective", Swedish Defence Research Agency
- OSCE Nagorno Karabakh arms embargo Archived June 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Security Council arms embargo Archived July 4, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- EU Myanmar arms embargo Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- EU China arms embargo Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- US China arms embargo Archived October 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- DR Congo arms embargo Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- Ivory Coast embargo Archived May 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- EU Sanctions measures Archived March 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- EU Guinea embargo Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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- Iraq embargo Archived June 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- "UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place". Al Jazeera English. March 28, 2015. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
- North Korea embargo Archived June 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Lebanon embargo Archived February 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- Somalia embargo Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- Sudan embargo Archived January 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- EU Uzbekistan embargo Archived December 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-05-07. Retrieved 2015-11-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- EU Zimbabwe embargo Archived June 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Rwanda embargo Archived February 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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- "US Arms Embargo against Turkey – after 30 Years, An Institutional Approach towards US Policy Making" (PDF). sam.gov.tr. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 713
- "EU arms embargo on the former SFR of Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina) | SIPRI". www.sipri.org. Retrieved 2018-08-31.