• Iraqi children enjoy a plate of rice and lamb while more than 500 sheikhs from across the southern region of Iraq meet to discuss upcoming election and tribal issues. The sheikhs also met with leaders from the 2nd Sqdn., 12th Cav. Regt.,4th  BCT, 1st Cav. Div., in Samawa July 16.

    Iraqi children enjoy a plate of rice and lamb...

    Iraqi children enjoy a plate of rice and lamb while more than 500 sheikhs from across the southern region of Iraq meet to discuss upcoming election and tribal issues. The sheikhs also met with leaders from the 2nd Sqdn., 12th Cav. Regt.,4th BCT, 1st...

  • Sheikh Hakim Khazl, the leader of the July 16 sheikh meeting near Samawa, speaks to the more than 500 sheikhs in attendance. Sheikhs from Iraq's southern provinces met to discuss upcoming Iraqi elections and to meet with leaders from the 2nd Sqdn., 12th Cav. Regt.,4th  BCT, 1st Cav. Div., July 16.

    Sheikh Hakim Khazl, the leader of the July 16...

    Sheikh Hakim Khazl, the leader of the July 16 sheikh meeting near Samawa, speaks to the more than 500 sheikhs in attendance. Sheikhs from Iraq's southern provinces met to discuss upcoming Iraqi elections and to meet with leaders from the 2nd Sqdn...

  • More than 500 sheikhs mingle outside a tent during an annual meeting to discuss issues concerning their tribes and upcoming elections in Samawa July 16. The sheikhs from the southern provinces also met with leaders from the 2nd Sqdn., 12th Cav. Regt.,4th  BCT, 1st Cav. Div.

    More than 500 sheikhs mingle outside a tent...

    More than 500 sheikhs mingle outside a tent during an annual meeting to discuss issues concerning their tribes and upcoming elections in Samawa July 16. The sheikhs from the southern provinces also met with leaders from the 2nd Sqdn., 12th Cav...

SAMAWA, Iraq - More than 500 Islamic tribal leaders gathered in Samawa to discuss upcoming Iraqi elections and issues affecting their tribes July 16.

"This is the spirit of democracy that is encouraging progress throughout Muthanna and Iraq," said Paul O'Friel, a provincial reconstruction team leader operating in the region.

Sheikh Hakim Khazl led the meeting under a theme of "free and fair elections," where he proposed introducing United Nations electoral monitors to validate upcoming elections.

"We are honored to be invited to such an event and witness first-hand Iraqi people's moving forward toward a truly democratic country," said Lt. Col. Scott Kendrick, the commander of the 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

The sheikhs discussed short falls in the election system in Iraq and agree there is a vital need to hold the national government accountable to the people. The sheikhs' tribes are gathering, organizing and developing strategies for peaceful and democratic elections scheduled this fall.

The 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div., Long Knife Brigade, is providing oversight and aid to the Iraqi Security Forces in the region.

Page last updated Mon July 28th, 2008 at 13:25