Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 13 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Sunni, Shia, Iraqi Army Leaders Meet on Neutral Ground.

CAMP STRIKER — More than a dozen sheiks and other influential leaders from southern Baghdad congregated on neutral territory Nov. 10 here on Camp Striker.

Among the leaders present was the mayor of Mahmudiyah, Mouyad Fadil, and Lt. Col. Mohammed Fatkan al Farhan, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.

The roundtable was hosted by War Rakkasans of the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The Rakkasans’ goal was to provide a place on neither Sunni nor Shia territory to discuss moving forward for the security and future of Iraq.

The aim was to bring sheiks from different religious sects to sit down together and create a plan to move forward, said Capt. Seth Palmer, 1-33rd Cav. Regt. Additionally, there is hope that the meeting will open the door for future dialogue, Palmer said.

The forum was opened and facilitated by Col. Dominic Caraccilo, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) commander, and Lt. Col. Brian Coppersmith, 1-33rd Cav. Regt. commander.

“We’ve recognized the importance of the sheiks. The importance of the tribes is absolutely decisive to the success we will achieve here in Iraq,” Caraccilo said. “For so long you have heard empty promises and we have heard empty promises, and together we’ve promised each other to do better and it’s time now to fulfill those promises.”

Sheik Kadem Shibli lauded the American hosts for recognizing the sheiks’ position in the Iraqi culture. “The sheik is very important in this region,” he said through an interpreter. “Tribes are the infrastructure of our Iraqi community. We are ready for any form of cooperation and support for building a better Iraq and to eliminate all the danger,” Shibli said.

Sheik Kadem Nwar Alamen insisted that there is no friction between Sunni and Shia – that they are all brothers.

“We’re all Muslims here and we’re all under Iraq’s flag and we have one Qur’an. We should not discriminate,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s any difference between Sunni and Shia.”

Common concerns voiced were the security of Iraq, detainees, the need for schools, medical care, fertilizer and economic development. Everyone in attendance agreed that security is central to any plan of action.

“We’ve lost many Soldiers. You’ve lost many family members,” Caraccilo said. “We’re at the point now where I think we can work together to make this place much more secure, that way it can prosper economically and as a government.

“It is with sincerity we conduct our missions day to day,” Caraccilo added. “And we do it alongside great Iraqi Army officers and Soldiers and alongside very good government leaders.” ...