The BIS maintains a list of countries and entities that are subject to restrictions under EAR. EAR restrictions vary from country to country, and are dependant on the item being exported. In general, the items with the most restrictions are the ones with warfare applications, especially items that can be used to build nuclear bombs or other WMDs. Countries that are hostile to U.S. interests, or are suspected of unacceptable activities, like building the aforementioned weapons or oppressing the populace, are also subject to harsher restrictions. For a complete list of restricted entities, consult this document.
The most restricted destinations are countries that are being actively embargoed and countries that have been designated as supporting state sponsored terrorism. Currently, the most restricted nations are Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
Cuba has been under embargo since October 1960. The embargo was originally placed into effect because the previous Cuban government had been overthrown by the Castro regime, which proceeded to seize control of the property of U.S. citizens and corporations on the island. The embargo remains because Cuba stands accused of violating human rights multiple times over the years. Fun fact: Before he signed the embargo into law, President Kennedy asked his press secretary to purchase 1,200 Cuban cigars for his future use.
Iran is under restriction because of it’s repeated attempts to gain materials necessary in the construction of nuclear weaponry. Iran has also been accused of sponsoring terrorist groups as well as repeated threats to Israel, an America ally. The restrictions began in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution, but more recent sanctions are due to Iran’s alleged nuclear program.
North Korea is under embargo because of its repeatedly expressed hostility to much of the Western world, as well as its attempts to construct nuclear weapons and its oppression of the North Korean populace. The embargo began in 1950 due to the hostilities of the Korean War, but have recently been defined by U.S. suspicions of North Korean nuclear programs as well as North Korea’s fear of an imminent U.S. attack.
Sudan has had restrictions in place since 2002. The U.S. is highly critical of Sudan’s human rights record, especially the violence committed in Darfur. Sudan contends that outside interference is part of a covert plot to overthrow their government.
Syria has had sanctions placed against it largely due to its poor human rights record. It has been deemed by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1979. The sanctions were installed in 1986. Recently, the sanctions have been increased, as Syria continues to crack down on protesters and rebels within its borders in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
For more information, consult the BIS website.