No question about the big development in Iran yesterday. The Supreme Leader, after four days of effort, finally got a significant political and religious triumph --- as opposed to his PR victory on Tuesday with his reception by Qom's crowds --- when Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani agreed to meet him. Ayatollah Khamenei's website put out a spread of photographs of the encounter, and state media --- even Press TV, which had been silent on the Supreme Leader's meetings with clerics --- posted short reports of the meeting, which also included Ayatollahs Nouri Hamedani, Makarem Shirazi, Shobeiri Zanjani, Jafar Sobhani, and Javadi Amoli.
Still, the press coverage has been fairly muted, and the Supreme Leader faces a list of clerics who are holding out against public photographs and private talks: maraje such as Ayatollahs Mousavi Ardebili, Vahid Khorasani, Bayat Zanjani (who raised a smile with his excuse that he was attending his niece's wedding and visiting his mom in Zanjan), and Sane'i are still refusing to show allegiance.
Meanwhile, the non-Iranian press is likely to pay little or no attention today. That is because Tehran has been swept up in the high-profile release by Wikileaks on documents on the US war in Iraq since 2003.
The documents are still not posted, but privileged media outlets such as Al Jazeera and The Guardian of London are running advance stories on the treasure trove. And The New York Times, via Michael Gordon and Andrew Lehren, has chosen as two of its near-exclusives, "Leaked Reports Detail Iran's Aid for Iraqi Militias" and "Iran Seized US Hikers in Iraq, US Report Asserts".
Both stories are shaky. The claim that Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer were abducted from Iraq is based on two military report with political overtones --- “The leadership in Iran benefits as it focuses the Iranian population on a perceived external threat rather than internal dissension” --- at their time of their detention in July 2009. And the Iran-Supporting-Iraq-Militias theme opens with a story of an Iraqi insurgent who at some point, for some reason (not necessarily to wage war against Americans) received training in Iran and Lebanon.
No matter. I suspect the articles, despite Gordon's tarnished record in his pre-Iraq War pieces declaring Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destructions, will be taken as proof of Iran's culpability.
Overturning that narrative may be even more difficult than proclaiming a united clergy behind the Supreme Leader.