Speaking to the optimism that characterizes the current political climate in Iran, Farsi-language websites and blogs have been calling this period that of the “lovely days.” This sentiment can perhaps be attributed to several developments: the decrease in the foreign exchange rate; the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s national shipping company and 17 of its subsidiaries; a presidential request that police be lenient with “bad hijab”; and the possibility of an opening in negotiations on the nuclear issue. Despite the implementation of a range of policy initiatives, this Rouhani Meter 10 day report limits itself to discussing events relevant to Rouhani’s election promises.
Between September 13 and September 22, Rouhani and his administration were most active in the realm of foreign policy.
Working Group Reviews Complaints by Starred Students and Dismissed Faculty
Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology interim caretaker Jafar Tofighi announced that about 500 “starred students” and professors dismissed or forced into retirement have submitted complaints to a ministry working group tasked with investigating the matter. “Starred students” are those who were blacklisted for their political activities or religion and prevented from continuing their education under the Ahmadinejad administration.
In a speech, Tofighi expressed the hope that “no student will be suspended from school.”
Sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and 17 Subsidiary Companies
On Monday, the European Union’s judicial body lifted a trade ban against the IRISL and 17 affiliated companies. The IRISL was placed on the EU’s sanctions list in 2010. At the time, the EU claimed some of the company’s activities supported Iran’s nuclear program.
According to Mehr News Agency, IRISL Chairman and CEO Mohammad Hossein Dajmar had this to say of the news: “Following the imposition of unilateral and baseless sanctions by European Union, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines appealed [the EU’s] illegal decision using experienced lawyers. Finally after several months of effort, follow-up, and hearings, on Monday September 16th the court issued a decree annulling the European Union’s sanctions.”
Speaking to Radio Farda. Dr. Said Mahmoudi, professor of international law at the University of Stockholm, said, “In all the rulings it is mentioned that the European Union can an appeal [the court’s decision]. In some of these cases, I do not think that the Europe Union will appeal since it will not be able to provide documentation [to back its claims]. It has two months to request an appeal.”
Rouhani: IRGC Does Not Compete with Private Sector, Should Not Participate in Partisan Politics
Rouhani called on the Guards to help improve the nation’s economy.
At the 20th National Assembly of Commanders and Officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on September 16, Rouhani said, “Today there is a conspiracy against the Islamic Republic, and it affects people’s livelihoods… IRGC needs to pull up its sleeves and bear part of the government’s burden.”
Rouhani asked the IRGC to assume responsibility for three or four major national projects and help the government prevent the smuggling of goods into the country. He also told the group that it does not compete with the private sector and should only take on national projects too large for the private sector to administer.
“On the issue of smuggling, IRGC can be useful in conjunction with the police and the Ministry of Intelligence. The situation is such that the IRGC needs to help because the scourge of smuggling is hurting economic growth and production,” Rouhani also said.
Rouhani: “Full Authority” to Reach Agreement with the West
Rouhani told NBC News that he has full authority to negotiate a nuclear deal with the West in an interview aired September 18. The Iranian president added that his government would never develop nuclear weapons.
Rouhani also confirmed the he exchanged letters with U.S. President Barack Obama and described the tone of Obama’s letter as “positive and constructive.”
“I believe that leaders in all countries should think of their own national interests and they should not be under the influence of extremist pressure groups. I hope to witness such an atmosphere in the future,” Rouhani told NBC’s Ann Curry.
According to White House Spokesman Jay Carney, “the letter also conveyed the need to act with a sense of urgency to address this issue because, as we have long said, the window of opportunity for resolving this diplomatically is open, but it will not remain open indefinitely.”
Rouhani also discussed Iran’s notable role in brokering an agreement between Russia and the United States on a resolution to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis.
When asked whether he could assure that Assad would give up all his chemical weapons, Rouhani said, “We are not the Syrian government. We are one of the countries of the region that seeks peace and stability and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the entire region.”
Curry also asked the president if he thought President Obama looked weak for failing to go through with the air strike on Syria. “We see war as a sign of weakness. Every government who decides to make peace, we look at it with respect for peace,” Rouhani replied.
This was Rouhani’s first interview with a foreign media outlet following his election.
Obama and Rouhani To Meet at U.N.?
The White House said President Obama he is willing to meet Rouhani on the sidelines of this year’s U.N. General Assembly if Iran is serious about resolving the nuclear issue.
Regarding the possible meeting Rouhani said, “I have no plans to meet with President Obama, but in politics anything is possible depending on the circumstances.”
On August 19, White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that he found President Rouhani’s interview with NBC News interesting and encouraging, but stressed that “actions are more important than words”.
Political Prisoners Released
According to various Farsi-language news sources, Iran has released at least 11 Iranian political prisoners. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer, and Mahsa Amrabadi, a journalist, are among the released.
On September 23, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ezhei, spokesman for the judiciary, announced that 80 “security prisoners” (prisoners of conscience), some of whom were involved in the 2009 election uprisings, have been pardoned.
According to Mehr News Agency, Mr. Ezhei also said that while some prisoners have already been freed, others “will be released soon.”
Price of Prescription Drugs Reduced
Dr. Rasoul Dinarvand, the head of the Ministry of Health’s Drug and Food Organization, has announced that the cost of some prescription drugs will decrease for patients with specific illnesses. “Starting September 23, the medication for patients with special diseases will be distributed by pharmacies according to new guidelines,” he said.
“Starting next week the price of these drugs will go back to what they were in 2012,” Dinarvand added.
The new administration has made it a priority to reduce the cost and increase the supply of medicine. The cost of prescription drugs has spiralled in the last year, a result of the depreciation of the rial. International sanctions have also made it more difficult for Iran to import much needed medication.
Value of Iranian Currency Rises
For the first time in ten months, the value of Iranian currency has risen to just under 30,000 rials (3,000 tomans) against the US dollar. Reports from Tehran indicate that the price of gold and major foreign currencies has also fallen relative to the rial. The euro is now trading at just under 40,000 rials (4,000 tomans).
The rate of foreign currency started dropping significantly early last week in anticipation of Iran’s visit to the U.N. General Assembly. The Iranian currency market has been marked by increased instability in the last year, a result of the ongoing international sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe.
The value of the rial plunged to historic lows in 2012, but has been slowly improving since the election of President Hassan Rouhani.
Rouhani to Police: Ease Up on Dress Code
President Rouhani has asked the police to show greater leniency when enforcing the country’s dress codes. The statement follows a recent crackdown on alleged violations of proper Islamic dress.