Vice President Mike Pence is working to quickly fulfill an October pledge to bypass the United Nations and more effectively direct U.S. aid to help Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq who are victims of genocide perpetuated by the Islamic State.
In an effort to swiftly implement the policy, Pence on Tuesday convened a White House meeting with top U.S. officials, including U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, USAID director Mark Green, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
Pence tweeted about the "important" meeting afterward, promising once again that "help is on the way" to these Iraqi communities trying to rebuild.
Former Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), who spent decades as a human rights champion in Congress and is now serving as a senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, also attended the White House meeting Tuesday. Wolf said he was encouraged that all the officials present appeared to share the same goals and praised the Trump administration for taking action to quickly institute the new policy.
"There is a famous quotation that says, 'Silence in the face of evil is evil itself. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act,'" Wolf said in a statement.
"This administration is acting on the president's policy to direct much-needed resources and relief to Christians, Yazidis and other persecuted for their faith in the Middle East," he said, adding that he wished Iraqi religious minorities could have attended the meeting to witness the Trump administration's commitment to their plight.
The meeting comes two and a half weeks after Pence announced the policy shift during a speech at the In Defense of Christians annual Solidarity Dinner highlighting the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere.
During those remarks, Pence said the United Nations has "often failed to help the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities."
"We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and atrocities of terrorist groups," Pence said.
Instead, he said the United States would work "hand in hand this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith."
After Pence's announcement, humanitarian groups struggled to find out how it would work and urged the administration to act quickly because thousands of Christians were under new threats posed by conflicts between the Kurds and the Iraqi Army, including Iranian militia members.
Humanitarian groups also expressed concern that USAID and the State Department was trying to water down or delay the directive. Officials at those agencies said that the administration was exploring a new initiative to ensure that funds are getting to vulnerable communities, but indicated that the pilot project would not begin until early next year.