Evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson called this week for Americans to “cool the rhetoric” on Saudi Arabia over the apparent killing of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi because the Middle Eastern nation is an ally and has a lucrative arms deal with the United States.
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and Washington Post contributor, is believed to have been killed by Saudi operatives in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He entered the building on Oct. 2 to pick up a document certifying his divorce so he could remarry. He has not been seen since.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has called for the United States to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.” The Middle Eastern kingdom has warned that it will retaliate if sanctions are put in place.
“I just want to cool down the temper of those who are screaming blood for the Saudis,” Robertson said on his “700 Club” program Monday. “Look, these people are key allies. Our main enemy in the Middle East is Iran, and the Saudis stand up against Iran.”
He added: “I don’t think on this issue that we need to pull sanctions and get tough. I just think it’s a mistake.”
Citing the $110 billion U.S.-Saudi arms deal, of which only $14.5 billion is finalized, he said, “It’ll be a lot of money coming to our coffers, and it’s not something that you want to blow up willy-nilly.”
On Tuesday, Robertson elaborated on his comments, saying: “We’ve got to cool the rhetoric, and what the president is trying to do is to give the Saudis an out.”
He said that with more than $100 billion in arms sales in play and with Saudi Arabia being “a bulwark against Iran,” now is not the time to alienate a Middle Eastern ally.
“You don’t blow up an international alliance over one person,” he said.
Robertson’s comments stand in sharp contrast to his position on Turkey after Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American citizen, was arrested in October 2016. Robertson called for the United States to “get tough” against Turkey over Brunson’s detention. Robertson even suggested that sanctions would an appropriate measure.
Brunson was released on Oct. 12.