Khamenei aide says US ap­proached him in Kabul seek­ing talks with Iran

The Financial Daily - - INTERNATIONAL -

DUBAI: A close aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei said on Mon­day U.S. of­fi­cials had ap­proached him dur­ing a visit he made last month to Afghanistan to re­quest talks with Tehran, Iran's semi-of­fi­cial Tas­nim news agency re­ported.

Ten­sions be­tween arch foes, Iran and the United States, have in­creased since last May, when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nu­clear deal be­tween Tehran and ma­jor pow­ers, and then reim­posed sanc­tions on the Is­lamic Repub­lic that had been lifted un­der the terms of the

The de­cline in Chi­nese in­vest­ment comes amid pact.

"Dur­ing my visit to Kabul last month, the Amer­i­cans... asked to hold talks," the sec­re­tary of Iran's Supreme Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, Ali Shamkhani, was quoted as say­ing, without spec­i­fy­ing what the U.S. side wanted to dis­cuss.

U.S. of­fi­cials were not im­me­di­ately avail­able to com­ment on the re­port.

In 2001, Iran worked with the United States to help set up a new Afghan gov­ern­ment to re­place the Tal­iban, which had been top­pled by a U.S.-led mil­i­tary cam­paign fol­low­ing al Qaeda's Septem­ber 11 at­tacks on U.S. cities.

Shamkhani was in Kabul last month for talks with the Tal­iban "to help curb the se­cu­rity prob­lems in Afghanistan". He said the Kabul gov­ern­ment had known of his talks with the Tal­iban.

Ma­jor­ity-Shi'ite Iran has long had close ties to Shi'ites in neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan whose mili­tias have fought the Tal­iban's Sunni mil­i­tants.

Wash­ing­ton ac­cuses Iran of try­ing to ex­tend its in­flu­ence in west­ern Afghanistan by pro­vid­ing mil­i­tary train­ing, fi­nanc­ing and weapons to the Tal­iban, a charge

Some se­cu­rity ex­perts ap­plaud what they call long-over­due pro­tec­tions for U.S. star­tups.

"What we are con­cerned about is a lim­ited num­ber of bad ac­tors who are phe­nom­e­nally clever about how they can ac­cess our in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty," said Bob Ack­er­man, founder of Al­legisCy­ber, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm based in San Fran­cisco and Mary­land that backs cy­ber se­cu­rity star­tups.

Rhodium cal­cu­lates that, on av­er­age, 21 per­cent of Chi­nese ven­ture in­vest­ment in the United States from 2000 through 2017 came from state-owned funds, which are con­trolled at least in part by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. In 2018, that fig­ure surged to 41 per­cent.

But some tech in­dus­try play­ers say Wash­ing­ton is cast­ing too wide a net in its zeal to check Bei­jing.

"A lot of in­no­cent busi­ness peo­ple are get­ting" caught up in the ad­min­is­tra­tion's spat with China, said Wei Guo, the Chin­aborn found­ing part­ner of Sil­i­con Val­ley firm UpHon­est Cap­i­tal, whose fund­ing comes mostly from for­eign in­vestors with ties to China.

Adding to Sil­i­con Val­ley's anx­i­ety, the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion has taken a more ac­tive role in polic­ing Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

Two in­dus­try vet­er­ans, a startup ad­viser and a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, told Reuters they were re­cently cau­tioned by the FBI not to pur­sue deals with Chi­nese in­vestors. The two peo­ple did not name the Chi­nese en­ti­ties of in­ter­est to the FBI, but said the deals con­cerned U.S. com­pa­nies build­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tech­nolo­gies.

Whether any of this de­ters China from reach­ing its goal of dom­i­nat­ing ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies re­mains to be seen. China can still in­vest in U.S. tech­nol­ogy through lay­ers of funds that ob­scure the money source. And Chi­nese in­vestors are redi­rect­ing funds to promis­ing com­pa­nies in South­east Asia and Latin Amer­ica.

U.S. star­tups, mean­while, are rewrit­ing deal terms to avoid a CFIUS re­view. Strate­gies in­clude adding pro­vi­sions to pre­vent for­eign in­vestors from ob­tain­ing pro­pri­etary tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion, and deny­ing them board rights, veto rights or ad­di­tional eq­uity in fu­ture rounds, at­tor­neys told Reuters.

"Peo­ple are right­fully con­cerned about mak­ing sure they are on the safe side of the fence," said Jeff Far­rah, gen­eral coun­sel of the Na­tional Ven­ture Cap­i­tal As­so­ci­a­tion. Tehran de­nies.

Shamkhani's com­ments came days af­ter re­ports of talks be­tween U.S. and Tal­iban of­fi­cials over pro­pos­als for a cease­fire in Afghanistan and a fu­ture with­drawal of for­eign troops ahead of pos­si­ble peace ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Khamenei slapped down an of­fer of di­rect talks made by Trump last year and Ira­nian of­fi­cials have said Wash­ing­ton's crip­pling sanc­tions would fail to wreck the econ­omy.

In July, Ira­nian author­i­ties said Tehran had re­jected eight U.S. re­quests for a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani on the side­lines of the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly in Sept 2017.

"Amer­ica's fan­tasy and hos­tile mea­sures have led nowhere, in spite of all their venge­ful ef­forts to­wards the Ira­nian peo­ple, and will cer­tainly not in the fu­ture," Ira­nian state TV quoted For­eign Min­istry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as say­ing on Mon­day.

"Our na­tion will never yield to the cruel pres­sures of the United States. We will never bend to those who talk the lan­guage of sanc­tions and build walls in­stead of bridges."

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