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Marine and city leaders air concerns in Ar Ramadi

16 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Iraqi and Marine leaders met here April 15 to discuss the "roadmap to peace" between Coalition and local forces in the city of Ar Ramadi.

Lt. Col. Paul J. Kennedy, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division commander, hosted the meeting, attended by nearly 100 sheiks, Imams and other men of influence in the community. Representatives from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the Iraqi Police were also present.

Before the meeting convened, the Iraqi leaders were shown various weapons seized by Marines during raids following last week's intense fighting in the streets of the city.

"Gentlemen, we're showing you these weapons, because each one represents one enemy fighter that no longer has a weapon to fight with," said Maj. Mike P. Wylie, the battalion executive officer.

Kennedy wanted the leaders to see with their own eyes what the Marines were dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

"I've invited you all to come here today to discuss the problems of the last few weeks so we can become friends," Kennedy said. "My commanders and I want to hear your ideas for the future so we can work together to get back to peace."

At this, Kennedy turned the floor over to Majid Abdal Razzaq Al Dulaymi, known as the sheik of sheiks. Dulaymi addressed some of the issues concerning the citizens of the city.

"Many of my people tell me that you raid their houses for no reason," the sheik said. "They will just be sleeping and their children will be sleeping and you will just bust down the door and frighten them."

Dulaymi was concerned that many of these raids were unnecessary.

"If you go into an innocent man's house and break his things and scare his family," Dulaymi warned, "you will make more enemies than friends."

To this, Kennedy replied, "I understand your concern, and I assure you we go to great lengths to train our Marines to respect the people of Iraq. You also have to understand that many of the houses we search we find weapons - weapons that could be used against my men."   

Kennedy reminded the leaders of the pile of machine guns, rifles, pistols, rocket launchers and knives to back up his statement.

Dulaymi also addressed several other concerns, but the most pressing issue for the Iraqi leaders was the number of citizens being detained by the Coalition.

"I know so many men in my tribe that are your prisoners," he said. "What is their crime? I feel many times they are taken prisoner unjustly."

Many of the other sheiks agreed and told stories of people from their tribes being detained by the Coalition for "no reason."

Kennedy once again reassured the leaders that the Marines do not intend to take innocent people prisoner, and if a detainee is found to be guiltless, he will be released promptly.

"All the men we have detained for long periods of time had weapons in their houses or were caught shooting at us," Kennedy added.

Kennedy told the men Marines are getting money and equipment for the Iraqi Police and the ICDC.

"Our goal is turn over the security of Ar Ramadi to the Iraqi security forces as soon as possible," Kennedy explained. "We've been talking to the chief of police and he feels that he and his men are almost ready to take over portions of the city."

The overall goal is to eventually put an Iraqi face on the city's security, removing Marines from the picture permanently.

After almost two hours of heated debate, Dulaymi thanked Kennedy for holding the meeting.

"We are going to take everything we talked about here back with us and try to think of ways to work together with the Marines to have peace," Dulaymi said.

The Marines will also use what they learned during the gathering to better their relationship with the Iraqi people.

"If we work out our problems now peacefully, there will be no excuse for anyone to want to make war," Kennedy said.