LATEST: Rouhani Office — “We Want People Completely Free in Their Private Lives”

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SUMMARY: The excitement over Wednesday’s release of 16 political prisoners was tempered yesterday, at least by one “senior judicary official” in an interview with Mehr News.

See Iran Special: 16 Political Prisoners Released — More to Come, including Mousavi and Karroubi?

The official countered discussion of more releases by saying that there were no further lists. He also played down Wednesday’s freeing of the 16 as a signficant change in policy, saying that many were reaching the end of their terms and they were still under conditions — effectively meaning they could be summoned back to prison.

See Iran Analysis: How Many Political Prisoners Can Rouhani Free?

This weekend, Alireza Beheshti, the Chief of Staff of 2009 President candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, was released on furlough, as were journalists Ahmad Zeidabadi and Mehdi Mahmoudian.

Beheshti, the son of a famous Ayatollah, was detained in autumn 2009 and sentenced to five years in prison.

See Iran Interview: Mousavi Advisor Beheshti on The Election

Zeidabadi, the Secretary General of Office for Strengthening Unity was arrested in June 2009, just after the disputed Presidential election, and is serving a six-year sentence. Mahmoudian, detained in September 2009, was given a five-year sentence.

(Featured Photo: A montage of some of the political prisoners held since the 2009 Presidential election)

Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Rouhani Office: “We Want People Completely Free in Their Private Lives”

It looks like President Rouhani’s office is on a Twitter offensive over social issues, following up its comments on Internet freedom with this:

Rouhani Government Takes Control of Internet

In a further sign that he wants to control policy over communications and censorship, President Rouhani has dismissed the head of Internet High Council and put Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi in charge.

And this afternoon, Rouhani’s office has repeated a statement he gave in an interview last week to US NBC News:

There was a flutter last week when Twitter and Facebook were temporarily freed from restrictions. They were soon re-imposed, but a number of websites which have been filtered in Iran for years are now unblocked.

See Iran Video Analysis: Is This the Breakout of Internet Freedom?

Currency Strengthens in Expectation of Nuclear Talks

President Rouhani’s approach of “engagement” with the West has strengthened the Iranian currency in expectation of nuclear talks.

Reports indicate the Rial is now trading at 29500:1 vs. the US dollar, a rise of more than 8% in value from last week’s level of 32000:1.

Amid US-led sanctions and economic difficulties, the Rial lost than 70% of its value in 2012, sinking as low as 45000:1.

The official rate, which was 12200:1 in 2012, was adjusted to 25600:1 this spring.

Rouhani Uses “Holy Defense” to Maintain Call for Dialogue with West on Nukes, Syria

Speaking at the “Holy Defense” military parade to mark the 33rd anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq War, President Rouhani has renewed his call for negotiations over the Syrian issue and Tehran’s nuclear programme:

Rouhani said the talks should recognize “all rights of the Iranian nation, particularly nuclear rights and the right to enrich uranium on its territory within the framework of international rules”.

Revolutionary Guards Maneuvers Around Rouhani’s “Stay Out of Politics” Remarks

More political fencing on Saturday after President Rouhani’s advice — apparently supported by the Supreme Leader’s office — to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to stay out of politics….

In its outlet Sepah News, the IRGC has used the 33rd anniversary of “Holy Defense” in the Iran-Iraq War to say that it supports all of the Supreme Leader’s “framework” for the Islamic Republic.

While avoiding a direct confrontation with Rouhani, the Guards then issued a caution over nuclear discussions:

The Guards said, “Historical experiences make it necessary for the diplomatic apparatus of our country to carefully and skeptically monitor the behavior of White House officials so that the righteous demands of our nation are recognized and respected by those who favor interaction.”

All-Is-Well Oil Propaganda: How Fars Turned 21% Decrease in India’s Imports into 425% Increase

All-Is-Well propaganda about Iran’s oil exports is a feature of Tehran’s media, but Fars offers an exceptional case this morning, “India’s August Crude Import from Iran Showing 425 Percent Rise“:

India’s crude oil imports from Iran hit 4.681 million barrels in August showing 425 percent growth in comparison with July, media reports said.

India imported 151,000 bpd of Iranian crude last month, while it imported 35,500 bpd in July, when only India’s Essar Oil Refinery purchased crude from Tehran.

First, a bit of maths: even Fars’ happy numbers are a 325% increase.

Now the real story. The illusory surge has occurred because some India refiners have resumed shipments after a four-month break because of difficulties over insurance and financial transactions amid US-led sanctions.

Even though Delhi is now taking some Iranian oil, the amount is still a significant reduction in its purchases. As Reuters — which Fars cites for its “report” — headlines, “India Cuts Iran Oil Imports 21 Percent in August vs Year Ago“.

Larijani Calls for “Logical Talks” with West as Nuclear Negotiating Team Named

More signals that Iran is looking for discussions with the “West” on its nuclear program and other topics, following the Supreme Leader’s signal of “heroic flexibility” on Tuesday….

Speaker of Parliament Speaker Larijani said, “The new government is ready for logical talks and this doesn’t mean that our strategy has changed.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is expected to meet Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, Germany, France, China, and France) at the United Nations General Assembly this week. A date for the renewal of nuclear talks, last held in April, is expected.

Larijani said, “We don’t need chanting slogans and if you are after settling (Iran’s nuclear) issue, enter with logic. Iran will not leave the table of negotiations and it has always been the westerners who disrupted the game.”

Meanwhile, an “informed source” said Zarif had confirmed the team for the discussions, including Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi and Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi.

Earlier this month, the nuclear file was taken from the Supreme National Security File — which reports directly to the Supreme Leader — and given to the Foreign Ministry, in a step boosting President Rouhani’s involvement in the process.