Iraqi community leader praises Obama for action against Sunni militants

'Our work has only just begun,' Iraqi community leader says after praising President Obama's speech

A leader in eastern San Diego County's large Iraqi community immediately hailed President Obama's decision to order a humanitarian mission to support the endangered members of the Yazidi religious minority and to authorize airstrikes if Islamic militants threaten Americans and others in the Kurdish capital of Irbil in northern Iraq.

"This is a step in the right direction for our global community," said Mark Arabo. "We commend President Obama for referring to this massacre as a targeted genocide."

Arabo, 31, national spokesman for Iraqi Chaldeans and chief executive of the Neighborhood Market Assn., has led an effort to lobby the Obama administration to take action against Sunni militants who have used violence to take control of a large swath of Iraq.

Arabo and a coalition he formed have been in regular contact with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications. Members of the coalition met Thursday with Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice, just hours before the president's nationwide address.

"Now we start the long road to recovery for the plight of these minorities in Iraq and we work toward ensuring a crisis like this never occurs again," Arabo said.

Arabo added his group will continue lobbying the White House, the United Nations and private groups to provide humanitarian aid. "Our work has only just begun," he said.

The Iraqi community in eastern San Diego County, centered in El Cajon, is estimated to number 40,000 or more. The community has swelled in numbers since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World