By Sgt. Serena Hayden
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 2, 2007 - In an effort to build upon the recent success of the Aug. 19 reconciliation agreement between more than 80 leaders from the Diyala River Valley, approximately 40 tribal leaders gathered at the Baqouba Government Center, Sept. 1, to continue their discussions about the importance of reconciliation. The leaders, both Sunni and Shia, represented multiple tribes throughout the Diyala River Valley, with emphasis placed on tribes from Abu Sayda and Mukiesha - two villages that have not worked together in over a year due to tribal infighting.
Ra'ad Hameed Al-Mula Jowad Al-Tamimi, Diyala's governor, hosted the meeting, allowing the tribes an opportunity to voice their grievances and discuss solutions for the way ahead.
"We must forget about the past and remain focused on the future," Ra'ad said, addressing the group of tribal leaders. "We have a long way to go; but today, you have taken the first step."
Circled around the Quran with their right hands raised, Ra'ad led the leaders as they swore over the Islamic holy book to uphold a province-wide reconciliation agreement. While a few leaders stated their commitment for the first time, the majority of the tribes attended the previous meeting and swore on the Quran as a sign of continued commitment.
The sheiks agreed and restated their commitment to conditions including ending violent acts between tribes; providing intelligence to the Iraqi Security Forces; fighting al-Qaida and other enemy organizations; helping the security forces discover improvised explosive devices; upholding the law; solving issues between tribes in a civil manner and returning the displaced families to their homes.
Iraqi Staff Maj. Gen. Nouri, deputy commanding officer of Iraqi Security Forces in Diyala province, Iraqi Staff Maj. Gen. Ghanem Abass Ibraham al-Qureshy, provincial director of police, and U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of Coalition Forces in Diyala, were also in attendance to witness the event and discuss any security concerns throughout the region.
"The future of Diyala is in your hands," Ghanem said. "We need to stand together and start building for the people. Whatever is done is done. are not going to return to that. The only choice you have is to look to the future of Iraq."
Sheik Sa'ad, a paramount sheik in the Abu Sayda area, reiterated the importance of working together.
"We are brothers," said Sheik Sa'ad, a paramount sheik in the Abu Sayda area. "We need to stop the bloodshed because innocent people and the future will die. I ask you, from your hearts, to work together to stop the fighting."
During his comments, Sutherland underscored the importance of decisive action at this time.
"Your province is at a tipping point right now. The people have faith in the leaders in this room; and those who choose not to participate will be left behind," Sutherland said.
"These reconciliation agreements are not just words on paper - they represent the future for your people," Sutherland continued. "As you continue to unite, your strength as a unified tribe will show the terrorists that they hold no place or position in Diyala."
(Sgt. Serena Hayden is a journalist assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)