CAMP RIPPER, Iraq -- Local civilian and military leaders throughout the western Al Anbar Province met with Marine and U.S. State Department leaders to discuss the elections and reconstruction, two issues key to Iraq's future.
Unit commanders from Regimental Combat Team 7 and U.S. Embassy representative Keith Kidd, 33, from Dallas, met with local Iraqi leaders to ensure they understood the map for elections, just a few months away.
The daylong meeting mapped the process by which the Iraqis will eventually draft a constitution. Local leaders also learned of new reconstruction projects, which will be built using local contractors.
"Today's discussion will be on the political future of Iraq," said Maj. James R. Kendall, a 35-year-old from Nashua, N.H., serving as officer-in-charge of the regiment's information operations. "It will give them an opportunity to present some of their concerns."
Kendall said the role of Marines and U.S. Embassy's representatives is strictly advisory. This was first of several meeting about the country's political future until the elections in January of 2005, he added.
The interim government presently has 42 delegates from the region according to Col. Brian J. Tucker, a 43-year-old from Oceanside, Calif., and officer-in-charge of the regiment's civil affairs detachment.
He explained some of the future events that will be key to establishing a permanent form of democracy in Iraq. He said in January, the country will have an opportunity to elect a transitional government, which will have until the following August to draft a constitution. That constitution will govern by the new elections in October 2005.
"The constitution will not be passed if the national assemble rejects it by two-thirds vote and if three of the provinces reject it," Tucker explained. "If this happens the country will elect another national assembly to draft another constitution."
A national assembly will be selected by the people of Iraq, Tucker added. Then that assembly will select a president and two deputy presidents. Those deputy presidents will select a prime minister and make appointments to the ministries.
Many of the local leaders had questions about the U.S role in the current government and how it will work out in the future.
"We are only here to help supervise Iraq's government," Kidd said. "We may make suggestions to them, but ultimately the power is with them. If you want change, it is up to you - the local leaders - to make it happen."
Kidd reassured the Iraqi leaders that democracy takes time and that disagreements between parties was welcome. He told them the road to a working, functioning government wouldn't be easy, but it is within their grasp.
"It took our country many years to get to were it is now, and we are constantly making changes to improve ourselves," Kidd said. "We will be there to assist you."
The day ended with a brief overview of upcoming reconstruction projects. Nearly $104 million dollars will be awarded to the region to help purify water, fix roadways, rebuild a variety of school, security and government buildings.
"Our military as well as civilian advisors will be here as long as it takes to get Iraq operating on its own," Kidd said.