By Rohollah Faghihi, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Many Iranians welcomed President Hassan Rouhani’s recent tour of Italy and France, during which billions of dollars in deals — including the purchase of 118 new Airbus passenger jets — were hammered out. However, the hard-liners in Iran have been raging against the tour, considering it a major humiliation.
The first salvo came from historian Hussein Dehbashi, a critic of Rouhani, who penned a post on his Facebook page in which he slammed the Iranian president for appearing in a room dominated by a giant bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius at his joint press conference with the Italian prime minister.
“[Roman Emperor] Marcus Aurelius [161-180] defeated Iranians in the era of the Parthian Empire. Why did the advisers of President Rouhani not pay attention to that?” Dehbashi wrote. Hard-line outlets warmly welcomed this censure, following Dehbashi’s lead in attacking Rouhani.
“The West is seriously concerned about Iran becoming a regional power, and namely the expansion of Iran’s strategic depth in Iraq and Syria. What kind of message would this send to people when Rouhani is inking contracts in Rome and under the hooves of the horse of Marcus Aurelius, who took a part of Iraq and the Levant from the Parthians?” the hard-line Nasim news agency wrote.