Prominent Televangelist Slams Trump Over Middle East Policy: 'Allowing the Christians and the Kurds to Be Massacred'

Prominent televangelist Pat Roberston strongly criticized Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, while slamming the president's Middle East policy.

Robertson, who has previously praised the president and campaigned for him in 2016, warned that the Kurds and Christians in the region would be "massacred" as a result of Trump's decision. He also blasted the president for repeatedly defending Saudi Arabia, despite the kingdom having brutally murdered U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

"I am absolutely appalled that the United States is going to betray those Democratic forces in northern Syria," Robertson, who founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), said Monday on the network's show The 700 Club. The religious leader and media mogul went on to attack Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose troops Trump has given the green light to move into northern Syria.

"Erdogan is a thug," Robertson said. "To say he's an ally of America is nonsense. He's in for himself," he added.

Pat Robertson
Televangelist Pat Robertson criticizes President Donald Trump on CBN show The 700 Club after the White House announced that U.S. troops would withdraw from northern Syria on October 7 Screenshot/CBN

Robertson then took aim at Trump more directly, criticizing his support for Saudi Arabia in addition to the Syrian withdrawal. "The president, who allowed [Jamal] Khashoggi to be cut in pieces without any repercussions whatsoever, is now allowing the Christians and the Kurds to be massacred by the Turks," he said.

Khashoggi was killed by Saudi Arabian agents last October after he entered the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. The journalist had been critical of the Saudi regime, and had fled the kingdom the year before. Despite the agents reportedly cutting Khashoggi into pieces with a bone saw, Trump defended Saudi Arabia. He called the kingdom a "great ally" at the time, while also praising the leading members of the Saudi royal family, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Although Robertson may now have expressed anger at Trump over the journalist's murder, he previously defended the president. "For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis — look, these people are key allies," the televangelist said last October.

The White House controversially announced on Sunday evening that U.S. troops would withdraw from northern Syria to allow for Turkey's forces to move into the region. By Monday morning, many lawmakers – especially top Republicans – had blasted Trump's decision. They called the move a victory for Iran and Russia, while warning that the Kurds, who the U.S. has backed in its fight against the Islamic State (or ISIS), would be targeted by Turkey. Ankara has long fought against Kurdish groups. Lawmakers additionally warned that the move could embolden an ISIS resurgence.

"By abandoning the Kurds we have sent the most dangerous signal possible – America is an unreliable ally and it's just a matter of time before China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea act out in dangerous ways," GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a key Trump ally in domestic politics, but has often criticized his Middle East policy, warned on Twitter.

Numerous other top Republicans and Democrats echoed similar concerns. But George Friedman, the chairman and founder of Geopolitical Futures, pointed out to Newsweek that Turkey and the U.S. are allied through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He argued the administration's decision was an attempt to balance this alliance with its support for the Kurds.

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson delivers remarks at a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Regent University October 22, 2016 in Virginia Beach, Virginia Win McNamee/Getty

"The Kurds are promising resistance but there is some indication that they are repositioning. The Turks have an interest in increasing control of their border but not in a blood bath," Friedman explained. "So the Kurds will either move out or reach some informal accommodation with Turkey," he predicted.

Friedman said that the situation is difficult for the U.S., as it's attempting to draw Turkey closer after years of strained relations. At the same time, it does not want to completely abandon the Kurds.

"The U.S. supports the Kurds in general, but it has decided that shifting these Kurds does not break the American relation to the larger Kurdish community but does lay the groundwork for drawing Turkey closer," he said.

Responding to his critics, Trump released a string of tweets on Monday. He argued that he'd hold Turkey accountable if it harmed the Kurds.

"As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey," he tweeted.

By abandoning the Kurds we have sent the most dangerous signal possible – America is an unreliable ally and it’s just a matter of time before China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea act out in dangerous ways.

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019

But lawmakers were not pacified. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut and Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, who both sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a joint statement calling the decision "a betrayal that will have grave humanitarian and national security consequences."

"This severely undercuts America's credibility as a reliable partner and creates a power vacuum in the region that benefits ISIS," they said.

Patterson's criticism of Trump's decision goes against the CBN trend since the president took office. Some have described the Christian network as a "propaganda channel" for the administration, as it regularly uses the Bible to justify the president's actions. White Evangelical Christians have been a key block of support for the president, with 81 percent having voted for him in the 2016 election. Despite numerous controversies, 73 percent of white evangelicals continue to support Trump, according to recent polling.