Criticized for ignoring a genocide of Christians in Iraq, the White House arranged a meeting Thursday of a top adviser to President Obama with representatives of Iraqi and Assyrian Christians.
The White House said that during the meeting, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes “condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) ongoing attacks on the Christian and minority communities in northern Iraq and the group’s systematic destruction of religious sites.”
Mr. Rhodes emphasized the administration’s ongoing efforts to encourage Iraqi leaders “to form an inclusive government that can address the rights and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s diverse communities, including Iraq’s Christians.”
“Only then can Iraq successfully and sustainably confront the security and humanitarian challenges all of its citizens face in the common fight against ISIL,” the White House said.
Fighters loyal to ISIL have overrun towns in northern Syria and Iraq in an effort to set up an Islamic caliphate straddling the two countries. Their offensive has prompted the Obama administration belatedly to send hundreds of U.S. military advisers to help the Iraqi military confront the threat.
Rep. Frank Wolf, Virginia Republican, accused the administration on the House floor last week of ignoring the genocide of Iraqi Christians, known as Chaldeans.
“Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out,” Mr. Wolf said. “It is a crime against humanity. Where is the West? Where is the Obama Administration? Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.”
San Diego Chaldean leader Mark Arabo, who attended the White House meeting, said earlier this week that the crisis is a “Christian Holocaust.”
“Christianity in Mosul is dead,” Mr. Arabo told KUSI-TV. “We have hundreds of thousands of families that are fleeing from the country, getting beheaded, being tortured, mutilated. We’re asking President Obama to move faster, and we’re hoping that we’ll have the same success as we had with the State Department meetings and also with members of Congress.”
The White House said Mr. Rhodes “appreciated hearing the vital perspectives of these important communities regarding the difficulties facing Iraq’s Christians.”
“He noted that we encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to take all possible measures to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations, and agreed that this issue demands the continued attention of the international community,” the White House said. “The United States remains committed to helping all of Iraq’s diverse communities, including Christians, Sabean-Mandaeans, Shabak, and Yezidis.”