AL HILLAH, Iraq -- L. Paul Bremmer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, spoke to leaders from Southern Iraq at CPA's south-central regional office June 14.
The former ambassador told the assembled leaders about the vision for Iraq's future conveyed to him by President George W. Bush at a recent meeting in Doha, Qatar.
"I told him that I have found many people who share his vision for Iraq," said Bremmer. "(It is) a vision for Iraq which is free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists, a vision of Iraq which is free with a working, democratic government, and a vision of Iraq at peace with its neighbors, and free from interference by its neighbors."
The south of Iraq is comprised mostly by Shia Muslims, which were the majority of a country ruled by Hussein, a Sunni Muslim.
"In this place, there has been oppression for 30 years," said Bremmer. "Shia (Muslims) have been oppressed by Saddam Hussein. I want to change that by encouraging commercial development, and encouraging more Shia participation in the administration of Iraq."
Since the end of major hostilities coalition forces, under the First Marine Expeditionary Force, have been working to provide security and humanitarian relief to the population of southern Iraq.
"Our environment, with the exception of a tiny sliver in the very north, has been extremely permissive," said Lt. Col. Tom Hartshorne, I MEF senior watch officer. "Our area of responsibility is primarily Shia, which have shown a tendency to be more cooperative with coalition forces. Security was established early on after combat operations, and has been relatively easy to maintain."
Now freed from the yoke of the regime, opportunities for growth and development in southern Iraq exist.
"We want the men and women of Iraq to have jobs, and be able to get to work without fear," said Bremmer. "We have had considerable success in establishing law and order. We have made progress in providing services to the Iraqi people. Now, we must get the economy moving again."
After Bremmer spoke, the floor was opened to questions from the assembled leaders. Many started off by thanking the United States and Bremmer for the work done in Iraq so far.
"The number one priority is security and stability, to keep Iraq a unified country," one of the leaders said through a translator. "We are the true Iraqis. We know what's best for Iraq. We know the past, and what we need in the future."
Bremmer made it clear that the government that would replace Hussein's dictatorship would be in their hands, along with the rest of Iraq's citizens.
"I understand that you cannot have national elections without a constitution," he said. "It will be written by Iraqis, for the Iraqi people, not a creation of the coalition."