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United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice's investments in companies that do business with Iran's shipping and energy industries could take a hit from a Senate vote Friday to strengthen economic sanctions against the rogue regime.
Several large energy companies that work with Tehran could find themselves running afoul of United States law if the new sanctions are implemented by the Obama administration.
The measure was introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and attached as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a large funding bill that authorizes the Defense Department’s annual expenditures. It passed 94-0.
The measure is aimed at blocking “Iran's energy, port, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, while also placing new restrictions on Iran's ability to get insurance for all these industries,” according to Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog.
All transactions with the Iranian regime would be effectively blocked by the legislation, which is by far the toughest round of Iran sanctions to date. Tehran continues to enrich uranium to a level needed to build nuclear arms.
Observers on Capitol Hill say the new sanctions could further complicate matters for Ambassador Rice, a possible nominee to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Free Beacon reported Thursday that Rice's portfolio includes thousands of dollars in investments in several energy companies that have done business with Iran’s oil and gas sector.The new sanctions would make such dealings illegal under U.S. law.
That raises the question of whether Rice would sell her stake in these companies to avoid a potential conflict of interest if she were nominated for the top diplomatic post.
Rice has already faced a backlash from Republicans for her investments in these companies as well as for promulgating erroneous information about the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
“Right now, Rice can say, ‘Oh well these companies haven't been sanctioned by the U.S. government—their business is still technically legal,” said a senior Senate aide who has been following Rice. “If these new sanctions become law, she may not be able to say that anymore.”
Rice, whose net worth according to financial disclosure forms ranges between $24 million and $44 million, has investments of up to $100,000 in Royal Dutch Shell, a longtime purchaser of Iranian crude oil that currently owes Tehran nearly $1 billion in back payments, according to reports.
Most of these companies engaged in lucrative deals with Iran well after Western governments began to urge divestment from the Islamic republic in an effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Some of them have stopped doing business with the regime.
Rice’s spokesperson attempted to downplay the matter in a statement to the Washington Post on Friday.
“With respect to Iran, Ambassador Rice worked to impose the toughest U.N. sanctions regime ever on Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations,” Rice spokeswoman Erin Pelton told the Post. “Iran is more isolated than it has ever been and facing the toughest economic pressure ever mustered.”
The revelation of Rice’s investments in companies that do business with Iran has also raised concerns among senior Democrats on Capitol Hill, where Rice would likely face a heated confirmation process should she be nominated as the next secretary of state.