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Iraqi Chaldeans Leader Grateful for U.S. Government Decision to Fight ISIS, Rescue Yazidi Refugees

( [email protected] ) Aug 11, 2014 02:43 PM EDT

Mark Arabo speaks for Persecuted Iraqi Christians and religious minorities
Mark Arabo addresses a crowd of Iraqi community members in eastern San Diego County. Arabo and others have urged President Obama to take action in northern Iraq. (Photo: Mark Arabo)

A group of Iraqis living in eastern San Diego County's large Iraqi community have praised President Obama's decision to order a humanitarian mission to assist the persecuted Yazidi religious minority and approval of airstrikes against Islamic militants in the Kurdish capital of Irbil in northern Iraq.

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

According to the Associated Press, Arabo, 31, is the national spokesman for Iraqi Chaldeans and chief executive of the Neighborhood Market Assn. He has reportedly led an effort to lobby the Obama administration to take action against ISIS for quite some time.

Chaldean Christian leader: ISIS 'Systematically Beheading' Children in Iraq 

Hours before Obama's nationwide address, in which he authorized airstrikes and announced the humanitarian mission, Arabo and a coalition he formed met with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.

"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.

Thus far, American airstrikes have killed 16 ISIS fighters, and an Iraq airstrike in Sinjar killed an additional 45 ISIS fighters.

In the meantime, rescue efforts on Sunday freed 20,000 of the Yazidi refugees trapped in the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq and surrounded by ISIS forces. U.S. military made a fourth airdrop of food and water to Iraqis still stranded on the mountain, and have delivered more than 74,000 meals and more than 15,000 of drinking water

Iraqi security forces have also been able to airlift about 100 to 150 people a day off Sinjar Mountain, said Marzio Babille of UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency.

While Arabo is thankful for the response from the U.S. military, he wants to be sure the United States government will continue to help those in danger in Iraq.

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

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

Tags : Obama, Sunni, ISIS, Iraq, Yazidi, airstrikes