Here is a timeline, drawn primarily from the Bodansky report:
"Resistance isn’t just about killing Americans without aims or goals. Our people have come to hate Al-Qaida, which gives the impression to the outside world that the resistance in Iraq are terrorists."Wayne Wright of Washington’s Middle East Institute and an expert adviser to the Iraq Study Group commented at the time:
"This does reveal that despite the widening cooperation on the part of some Sunni Arab insurgent groups with US forces against al-Qaida in recent months, such cooperation could prove very shortlived if the US does not make clear that it has a credible exit strategy."(Insurgents form political front to plan for U.S. pullout, Seumas Milne, The Guardian, July 19, 2007.)
Meanwhile, Iranian influence is becoming more and more palpable. Iraq has become a winning card in the hands of the theocratic regime of Tehran. As the French saying goes, “little by little the bird makes its nest.”(My lost year in Baghdad, Mokhtar Lamani, Ottawa Citizen, November 1, 2007)
We believe that the commitments that the Iranians have made appear to be holding up,” Simmons said, adding that Iranian-made weaponry still found in Iraq appeared to have been smuggled in months ago.(U.S. general: Iran sticking by pledge to stem flow of weapons, explosives to Iraq, Robert H. Reid, Associated Press, November 15, 2007)
After the news conference, Simmons told The Associated Press that the Iranian move followed “a significant amount of negotiations.” He would not give details, however, saying he was not privy to the discussions.
"It is simple, for my students Iraq does not exist …(For Kurds, Iraq is a distant memory, Kurdish Media, November 17, 2007. See also: Iraq Kurds defy Baghdad on oil deals, Kurdish Media, November 26, 2007.)
"To feel part of a country, its language should be spoken. However Arabic is no longer even taught. Or if it is, then as a foreign language—a little less even than English…
"For them Iraq is far away, and associated with bad memories. For the man in the street, it is a neighbour one must get along with because it could turn malicious. That’s all. Their country is here."
“We are seeing encouraging signs of movement,” he said, but added, “This is going to be a long, hard slog.”
“These are only accusations raised by the multinational forces and I think these accusations need more proof,” the chairman of the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council, Sayyid Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, told reporters. Mr. Hakim, who has been undergoing treatment for lung cancer in Iran, said the Iranians have insisted in meetings with Iraqi officials that “their true will is to support the Iraqi government” and to promote stability. “They have a long history of standing by the Iraqi people and that is their official stance that is presented to the press without any hesitation,” he said.(Iraqi Shiite Politician Defends Iran Against U.S. Accusations, Sameer N. Yacoub, Associated Press, November 26, 2007)
Some confirmation of Bodansky’s claims are provided by an Al-Arabiya television interview of Hakim on December 3, 2007 (translated by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, available through subscription). The interviewer, Pierre Ghanim remarks:
“following your meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice two days ago, you said that Iran supports Iraq, while the United States accuses it of killing or helping kill US soldiers.” Hakim responds:
“The Americans do not deny that Iran has taken positive positions and backs the Iraqi Government. However, the United States accuses Iran of [interference] and Iran denies them. Iraqis have succeeded in getting the two countries to open a constructive dialogue in the interest of Iraq, its security, and its stability. During the dialogue, the two sides can determine whether or not Iran interferes in Iraqi affairs. The best way to settle this issue is for the two sides to resume the dialogue.” Asked if he is mediating between Tehran and Washington, Hakim says:
”I was among the first to call for a dialogue, and I am endeavouring to get the two sides to open productive, constructive, and useful dialogue in the interest of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government.”
Bodansky describes Hakim’s talks with Rice as:
”focused on Iraq’s security, national reconciliation, and Iraq’s reconstruction and issues related to neighboring countries”. Hakim said that he convinced official Washington that “Iran plays a positive role in establishing security in Iraq”. Hakim also disclosed that he had delivered to the Bush White House “documents proving that Iran has supported Iraq”. Meanwhile, Tehran accepted that the agreement, or understanding, with the Bush White House would be most secret. Nevertheless, Tehran now expected a clear signal from Washington that the threat of a US strike on Iran was over.
Ambiguity reins [sic] supreme; so much is certain. But to spread such a climate in the Middle East...only raises further questions about the aims that the Bush administration hopes to achieve. This is especially true since the [Iran intelligence] report opens the door wide open to numerous ‘compromises’ between Washington and Tehran in light of the stalemate over the various explosive files (Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine) that have exhausted Washington.Also in the Mideast Mirror, there is this report of [Israeli PM] Ehud Olmert's response to the NIE [also not reported by Bodansky]:
After returning from Annapolis and a long meeting with Bush, he said in an interview with [the Israeli daily] Yedioth Aharanot: ‘Those in the know are not speaking. What happened in the great drama of which we are speaking, also applies to Iran. I prefer those who fight on the ground to those who speak in salons.’
”Al-Sahwa has made a deal with the US to take charge of their local areas and not hit US troops, while the resistance’s purpose is to drive the occupiers out of Iraq. We are waiting in al-Sahwa areas. We disagree with them but do not fight them. We have shifted our operations to other areas”.(Iraqi insurgents regrouping, says Sunni resistance leader,Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, December 3, 2007)
"This time around, if the Americans pay attention to the fact that Iran has a prominent role in the Iraqi issue and can help -- because of its moral influence in Iraq and its political influence -- it can help the Iraqi government."In the IPS News article reporting the above quote, there is also this additional piece of confirmation of high-level contacts between Iran and the U.S. and of the proposed December 18 meeting:
Despite their mutual animosity, however, Iran and the U.S. have held three rounds of high-level talks on Iraqi security. On Sunday, Iran's foreign ministry announced that Iraqi officials have proposed holding the next round Dec. 18.(Iran eases support to radical group – for now, Roxana Saberi, IPS News)
Bodansky concludes with a depressing set of prophecies, no less apocalyptic than that of the Mahdists in Iran:
For the elites of the Greater Middle East, left to be determined are only the modalities for the US withdrawal.
Irrespective of the outcome of the 2008 elections in the United States, the US has committed to withdrawing from Iraq, and, as far as the Greater Middle East is concerned, from the entire region as well….
However, withdrawal from Iraq will entail a great strategic price for the United States, its friends and allies.
The post-US Greater Middle East will – in the view of this analyst – be characterized by the profound and at this stage largely irreversible weakening of the centralized states and their ruling elites. In their stead, the region will see the empowerment of religious-clannish elites, all beholden to Mahdist Tehran and dependent on the mullahs for their survival. The ascent of militant Shi'ism will affect the entire Greater Middle East, as well, for it will empower the Islamist-jihadist trend and elites also in the Sunni heartlands.
A major war for the "liberation" of Jerusalem and the ensuing destruction of Israel would consolidate the Islamist-jihadist hold over the Greater Middle East for centuries. Tehran is eager to escalate any grassroots reaction to the enduring US presence in Iraq into such an anti-Israel war. Even if such a war was to be averted by a speedy and smooth US withdrawal, this would only be postponement of the inevitable….
Adamant on saving his own political legacy, Pres. Bush made his Faustian deal with Mahdist Tehran. Thus, the Bush White House will be able to tout success; the US will be able to declare victory and withdraw safely. Left behind will be a tormented region now having to face on its own both the wake of the US adventure and the vacuum created by its withdrawal. Cognizant, all aspirant regional powers arre already posturing and surging in order to seize the historical opportunities virtually at all cost.
This cataclysmic struggle, which I believe will dwarf all regional wars to date, has barely begun.
“I cannot believe that anyone who worked on nuclear proliferation for any period of time would make a statement like that.(Kay: Recent Iran NIE Recalls Erroneous 2003 Iraq Estimate)
It is dismaying to believe that the bureaucrats in the intelligence services were able to produce a flawed NIE report in order to preempt the administration from any possible military move against Iran in the remaining months of the Bush term. It is far more disheartening to think that the report signaled a secret deal with Iran that gives that fanatical regime hegemony over a large swath of the Middle East in exchange for a face-saving withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Yet, whether or not the Bush administration has entered into such a "Faustian" arrangement, the dire, even apocalyptic outcome Bodansky envisions may ensue anyway should Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton be in a position to carry out their promised hasty Iraqi retreat.