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Iraq Claims Key City Recaptured from ISIS; Al Qaeda Threatening U.S. Embassy; Al Qaeda Threatening U.S. Embassy; Iranian Tweet Threatens Israel
Aired November 11, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, new ISIS video. High-tech and horrific. The terror group boasts of its victories and shows off its brutality and may be picking up a dangerous new ally. Americans in danger as a key Middle Eastern nation spins into chaos. An al Qaeda spinoff may have the U.S. embassy and the U.S. ambassador in its sights.
A new uprising. A Palestinian is killed as violence rages after the stabbing of Israelis. I'll ask the spokesman for Israel's prime minister where all of this is heading.
An insanity defense? A new look at the case against the Virginia suspect Jesse Matthew. Could his lawyer seek a psychiatric ruling?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. ISIS has released a brazen and shocking new video that is slickly produced and gruesome. It trumpets the terrorists' battlefield gains and shows off the bodies of the victims. The video emerges as U.S. troops deploy on the front lines in Iraq and ends with a warning. The warning being, "You will never defeat us."
ISIS may have a new ally. An Egyptian jihadist group that has attacked both Egyptian troops and Israel now says it has pledged loyalty to ISIS. And an al Qaeda offshoot poses a growing threat to the U.S. in Yemen, where the American ambassador may right now be in danger, and the embassy may be targeted.
A leading voice on intelligence and counterterrorism, Congressman Peter King, he's standing by, along with our correspondents, our analysts and our newsmakers. The fate of the top ISIS leader is still unclear. He was reportedly wounded in an air strike, and ISIS may have just suffered a battlefield defeat as Iraqi forces claimed to recapture the key city in Iraq. But that isn't stopping the group from making new threats.
Let's begin our coverage this hour with our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Iraqi forces have now made their move in the town of Baji, a very critical gain, but there is that ISIS video.
STARR (voice-over): A hard-fought victory for Iraq in its battle against ISIS. Iraqi television reporting the key town of Baji has been retaken from the terror group. The city, some 150 miles north of Baghdad, home to the biggest oil refinery in the country.
But ISIS is continuing to sell its battlefield prowess. In its latest video, ISIS shows a helicopter being shot down in Iraq and recounts the history of fighting in Kobani.
Some battlefield video even shot with what appears to be helmet- mounted cameras. The 21-minute video includes graphic scenes we cannot show of ISIS killings. It's high-tech propaganda. The U.S. believes ISIS is trying to protect an image of inevitable victory over the west.
It comes as the first 50 U.S. troops moved into al-Anbar province.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They're spoiling for a fight with the United States, because if they can deal us a blow, they think that that might break our resolve. So I expect we're going to see a lot of action up in al-Anbar province.
STARR: ISIS appears to be gaining support from one of Egypt's most dangerous militant groups, which has shot down Egyptian military helicopters over northern Sinai in the past.
Now, the Egyptian militants pledging obedience to ISIS.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The radical elements in Egypt have now aligned themselves with ISIS. ISIS is winning, at least in the eyes of young radicals all over the Middle East.
STARR: The U.S. watching for signs that ISIS is moving into Egypt.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We don't have an assessment of that at this point in time.
STARR: Now, what about the fate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self- proclaimed leader of ISIS? U.S. officials say still they cannot confirm reports that he may have been killed or wounded in an airstrike -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Iraqi officials, Barbara, as you know, they say they believe he was at least injured. But U.S. officials can't confirm that. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.
Let's get an update from our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon. She's on the ground near the Turkish/Syrian border. Arwa, what are you seeing? What are you hearing over there? What's going on? ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the battle is certainly
continuing on multiple fronts. Of course, you have Kobani not too far away from where we are right now, that has been the scene for over two months of intense battles between ISIS and the Kurdish fighting force.
And you also have this ongoing uncertainty about the fate of al- Baghdadi, the U.S. unable still at this stage to confirm whether or not he had been injured. He was not necessarily the intended target of strikes launched over the weekend, but we do have the Iraqi institutions and the ministers of interior and defense both saying that he was killed, although he's saying he was killed in a different location.
All that being said and done, even if al-Baghdadi was killed or injured, he has structured ISIS in such a way that the organization would be able to continue to survive and thrive even as the top-tier leadership has been taken out.
Additionally, at this stage, what we are seeing increasingly on the ground, especially in Syria, is some of the other more hardline rebel factions that we're fighting against ISIS, because of these ongoing airstrikes, we're beginning to see defections from some of their fighters towards ISIS. And that is because there's this growing perception that the coalition airstrikes are not necessarily just trying to take out ISIS but that they are going after some of these other rebel groups. This potentially could create yet another rift in the already very fractured Syrian battlefield -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It continues nonstop. Thanks very much, Arwa, for that report.
Let's go in depth right now. Joining us, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a key member of the House Homeland Security Committee as well as the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. A few quick questions. Then I want to move on. Based on everything you know, is this leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, injured, dead, alive? What do you know?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Wolf, you know, we're still trying to confirm that. There was nothing definite. I don't rely on what the Iraqi government says. They were telling us back in September there was going to be an attack on the New York City subway system. So we do not have the intelligence on the ground that we should ever since the president ordered withdraw of our troops. It's very difficult for us to get the people on the ground to give us the intel that we need. I expect to get it soon. We're going through social media, and we are trying to reach out to different sources. But as of this date, as far as I know, we do not have a definite answer if he's dead or alive.
BLITZER: I've been told by U.S. officials they take everything that the Iraqi government of Baghdad, this new Iraqi government, tells them with a huge, huge grain of salt. Is that right?
KING: That's certainly the way I would look at it, yes. I mean there's -- they have not been reliable. You see conflicting reports come out. And again, I used the example of the prime minister actually being at the U.N. in New York and saying that there was a threat against New York City subway system, which was totally untrue.
BAGHDAD: If Baghdadi were to go, would that really, in the long term, in this war against ISIS, make much of a difference, because there are a whole bunch of others ready to step up?
KING: There is Turkmani (ph) and Imbari (ph) and others who are lined up to take his place. There are his deputies. But I think in the short term it would be a very sharp and almost devastating attack against them or loss for them, because he is so charismatic.
But I agree, talking about in weeks or months, they'd be back at full strength. But during that time, when he has been -- if he turns out to be dead or seriously wounded, we can take advantage of that to move and to move more rapidly at a time when they could be in a state of confusion or a state of -- again, not knowing exactly where to turn.
Also, the other factor, they're putting out these videos. And it's to show that they're invulnerable, to show that they can't be stopped. If we can show that they can kill their leader, who is -- almost has this messianic influence over them, if we can show that, that would, I think, help us as far as stopping their recruiting and as far as building up morale and trying to build up local support against ISIS.
BLITZER: On the other hand, Congressman, I've been told by U.S. analysts that their -- one of their top goals for recruiting for propaganda for morale or whatever, is to kill an American or Americans, military personnel in Iraq, as quickly as possible. I assume that's a huge, huge concern right now, especially as the first 50 U.S. troops are moving into the al-Anbar province, 80 percent of which is ruled by ISIS right now.
KING: There's no doubt, they do want to kill American military. They also threaten to go after American military family members. And we've seen that here in the United States and Canada attacks on police officers and military.
So ISIS is really carrying its fight to another dimension, either through their own soldiers or through social media, encouraging their followers to attack the military, to attack the police and also to attack family members.
We have to certainly be on our guard both in Iraq, Syria, and also really in Europe and throughout the world; and right here in the United States.
BLITZER: It's a bad thought to even think about. But Americans should get ready for U.S. troops coming home in body bags as this war escalates?
KING: Well, listen, nobody wants to see any -- any American killed in any war, but the fact is that that is something that we may have to face. And I think that the president would be better advised to take stronger action, rather than doing it in bits and pieces and to -- and not to be telling the American people that he's not going to be using ground troops.
And so it's -- to me, if the president has to have a more consistent and clear strategy and to carry out that strategy, he has -- he can't just keep saying, we're not going to use ground troops when the fact is virtually everyone knows that airstrikes are not enough, especially against an army of 30,000 members and which has a land mass larger than the entire country of Great Britain.
BLITZER: You agree with Senator John McCain that what he described as the slow pace that the U.S. is taking in this war against ISIS reminds him of the escalation that occurred during Vietnam, and he's a Vietnam War veteran?
KING: Nobody is better qualified to speak on that than John McCain. And I fully agree with Senator McCain. I believe that -- again, everyone gets a different lesson from Vietnam. But the one that I have and certainly I believe John McCain has, because he was there, is that when you escalate, you give the enemy the chance to escalate its defenses.
When you tell the enemy what you're going to do, you get -- you give the enemy the opportunity to plan. And you also show a reluctance to go all-out. I wouldn't want ISIS to think that we won't do whatever we have to do, use whatever number of troops, whatever weapons we have. Whether we do or not, that's up to the commander in chief. But I would never let the enemy know what we're going to do or not going to do.
BLITZER: We have more to discuss, Congressman. I want to you stand by. A quick break. We'll also make the turn to Iran. What is Iran up to in Iraq right now? And more. Right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a key member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.
Congressman, I want to quickly get your information, because I know you're really interested in that October 23 hatchet attack on two New York City police officers. The individual who engaged in that, you're learning more about motivations, plotting. What are you learning?
KING: Yes. The NYPD has really put out a full intelligence report that he had over 300 visits to jihadist websites in the weeks leading up to this.
I think after it happened, you know, after the brutal attack, Commissioner Bratton came out the next day or two days later and said it was a terrorist attack. But I think somehow people thought and didn't understand the full extent of the Islamist influence on him.
So Commissioner Bratton, and especially after the -- in the subsequent axe attack in Washington, the NYPD has prepared an intelligence report that they've sent to police departments all over the country to show how these websites are driving people toward attack on the police. And all police officers should be on their guard. And this is not just somebody who had racial issues or Black Panther issues or white supremacist issues.
He was a -- he had become severely influenced by jihadists, almost obsessed with Islamic jihad. Over 300 visits to websites which called for attacks on police, attacks on the military, attacks on civilians, attacks here in the United States. And that's where ISIS is really -- is far more advanced than the ordinary al Qaeda group in that they are reaching out to people on the fringes of society that you won't ordinarily know about. And it attracts them.
And again, what happened to those police officers, the police officer -- Officer Healy, who was just out of the police academy several months. His father is a detective here in Nassau County Police Department. It was tragic. Fortunately, it looks as if the injuries -- he's definitely going to survive and there's not going to be a long-term injury. But a brutal attack to his head with an ax.
So anyway, that was what the NYPD was behind to show this was not just someone who occasionally went to jihadist websites. More than 300 visits to those websites in the weeks leading up to that attack.
BLITZER: But he still hits the bill as what they call him a lone wolf. He didn't necessary -- there's no evidence yet, unless you have some that you want to share with us, that he conspired with other individuals to engage in this hatchet attack against these two New York City police officers.
KING: No, he didn't. And that's why ISIS in some ways is more dangerous, and they are reaching out to people who are not part of their organization, per se. These are followers; these are people who are supporters. And they're reaching out to them. They're going beyond just their hard core and going behind those that they have direct contact with. Instead they're putting out these statements on their websites and are appealing basically, you know, a call for jihad. And the fringes of society are picking up on them, as we saw in Canada.
BLITZER: I want to get back to what you and I just discussed a moment ago before the commercial break, that a top goal, if not the top goal of ISIS right now for the recruitment, for their morale, for their propaganda purpose is to start killing American troops in Iraq.
Elaborate on what you know about that, because I've heard it, as well, and I know there is serious concern. Originally, there were 300, 400 American troops. There are 500, 1,500. Now it's going up to 3,000. They are all supposedly advisors, as they're called. But a lot of these young men and women potentially could be in major harm's way.
KING: Absolutely, Wolf. There's almost no such thing as an adviser in a combat zone. I mean, yes, you're an advisor, but you're also in the line of fire or you certainly can be in a line of fire. So certainly, they have to be on their guard at all times about being attacked, whether it's on base, off base -- or actually, it wouldn't be off base -- but whether or not they are in combat or whether or not they're in down time. They have to be on alert all the time. And also, though, I think our troops even in Germany, troops stationed
here in the U.S., anyone wearing an American uniform has to be on their guard. I know that a number of police departments in the city, I mean in our country, are urging their officers not to wear their uniforms off guard, to take different routes going home, because police, military, both overseas but also right here, in our country are targets of ISIS.
BLITZER: Peter King, that's very much for joining us.
KING: Wolf, thank you very much. As always, thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up, there's breaking news at another Middle East trouble spot, an al Qaeda group flexing its muscles and even claiming that it's trying to kill the United States ambassador.
And later, Israel responds to the alarming increase in attacks by so- called lone terrorists armed with knives or driving full speed into pedestrians. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news that has the U.S. military stepping up plans for potential quick action in yet another Middle East hot spot. A dangerous terror group is gaining strength and fighting in the streets and opposing -- poses a growing danger to U.S. diplomats in Yemen.
CNN's Brian Todd is looking into this situation for us. What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is taking advantage of the fighting and chaos on the streets in Yemen. It claims to have already targeted America's ambassador to Yemen, though U.S. officials say they don't have evidence of that. Still, the terror group is gaining strength. And what's worrying U.S. officials tonight is that neither the Yemeni government nor anyone else seemingly has the strength to stop them.
TODD (voice-over): Pitched street battles, suicide bomb attacks, no one in complete control. This is the chaos engulfing Yemen, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror. CNN has learned U.S. officials have grown so concerned over instability in recent days that the military is updating plans to evacuate personnel from America's embassy in the capital, Marines and helicopters at the ready on board an amphibious warship off the coast.
It's worrisome to a friend of U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Matthew Tueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say he's in a great deal of danger, just because you have all of these factions fighting around the country and at least a couple of them would like to take out the embassy and him. TODD: The terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claims it
recently targeted Ambassador Tueller, saying it planted explosives at the home of Yemen's president while the ambassador was visiting. The group says the bombs were detect just minutes before detonation.
But U.S. officials say they have no indication of an attack truly aimed at the ambassador. And a Yemeni diplomat says there were no explosives they know of found at the president's house.
Still, U.S. officials are worried about another Benghazi. In Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is Sunni, has been battling against a Shia rebel group called the Houthi, who also want to seize power. And the president of Yemen has little power to control either side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have stabilized the situation, and it's a big problem for us. Who is going to be in charge? Frankly, right now, no one is.
TODD (on camera): No one is in charge? What does that mean for stability and U.S. interests there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means Yemen as a country, very mountainous, very tribal, rarely has a central government that had authority all over the country.
TODD (voice-over): A U.S. counterterror official tells CNN now that they have pushed into Sunni strongholds, AQAP has stepped up the pace of its operations.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: And they're worried that AQAP could take advantage of this, just like ISIS did in Iraq. Take advantage of sectarian tensions to increase their safe haven, their zone of operations, grow in strength. And AQAP is a group that wants to attack the U.S. homeland, and they've made clear that's a priority.
TODD: AQAP has already successfully gotten bombs on planes bound for the U.S. with the Christmas Day underwear bomb plot in 2009. The bombs planted in printer cartridges the following year. Officials say the mastermind of those two plots, AQAP's leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, and its chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, are still at large, still plotting against the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Presumably both in Yemen. Thanks very much, Brian, for that report.
For more now on the chaos enveloping another Middle East ally of the United States, let's bring back our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr; our national security analyst, Peter Bergen; and Sama al- Hamdani, a Yemen analyst and expert on the region who recently was there.
Sama, the U.S. ambassador in Yemen right now, Matthew Tueller, how much danger is he in? SAMA AL-HAMDANI, YEMEN ANALYST: Clearly, they tried to target him.
And they targeted him to send a message to America and to the Yemeni president that they are still there and active on the ground.
But I think al Qaeda is not the only scare group that is going to target Americans. It's the rebel movement that has the same slogan, "Death to America, death to Israel."
So, in general, on the ground, Yemen is not really safe right now, but I don't think that the ambassador should evacuated.
BLITZER: Not yet?
AL-HAMDANI: Not yet.
BLITZER: At some point, you suspect that maybe...
AL-HAMDANI: Maybe. It could go from zero to one hundred at any time. But I think at the moment, the presence of foreign ambassadors in Yemen has been very powerful in terms of stability.
BLITZER: Barbara, what's the plan? I now at the Pentagon they always have contingency plans. But what kind of preparations are underway for a possible emergency evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, in Yemen, including the ambassador and all the other diplomats -- military personnel, Marines -- whoever happens to be there?
STARR: Look, Wolf, this starts with the State Department. The military doesn't just go in. The ambassador at the State Department would have to say, "We are ready to evacuate, and we need military help in doing it." They are not at that point, clearly, yet.
But behind the scenes, the Pentagon is growing increasingly concerned that, with the deteriorating situation, if everybody waits too long, they may not be able to get them out quickly and safely. If the airport continues to have fighting in that area, the first option is closed. The first option is always go over to the airport, get on a commercial aircraft, and fly out of the country.
That may not be possible. So at that point, they turned to other options at the State Department wants to close it down. And that means Marines, helicopters, getting people out of the embassy, perhaps flying them directly to an offshore Navy ship, driving them somewhere else. That happened in Libya.
But Yemen is going to be very tough business if it gets to that point. The Pentagon likes to say, if you wait too long, we may not be able to help. And the Pentagon likes to get in early so there's a little tension there, because they don't want to have to put U.S. troops at risk, obviously. Nobody wants to go in under fire to get Americans out. They want to go in before it gets to that point.
But Wolf, Yemen is different. If the embassy shuts down, that is the U.S. window into al Qaeda. And if that window is closed, counterterrorism may be much tougher to do. BLITZER: I suspect, Peter, that in the end, they're probably going to
have to do that, just like they did it in Libya. All the U.S. embassies shut down in Libya. There are no Americans left there. It's too dangerous, given the volatile terrorist situation in Libya. I suspect Yemen could be the next country to force a complete evacuation of Americans.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's possible but bear in mind, the embassy in Yemen has been a target by al Qaeda for over a decade. I mean, we've seen a major attack in 2008 and a rocket attack in September. And also, by the way, this is a very hardened embassy. It's set back a long way from the street. It is set up in such a way that, unless there was some major, major attack, it can continue to work.
BLITZER: So the last thing you want to see happen is an attack on the U.S. embassy and American diplomats and other taken hostage by these terrorist groups, sort of what happened in Tehran back in 1979.
BERGEN: Sure. That would obviously be terrible.
BLITZER: And that's what the U.S. is trying to prevent. And if you look at the situation, Sama, the situation in Yemen, if, in fact, the U.S. had to pull out and all Americans are out, what would that say about the so-called war on terror, what's happening, in the region?
HAMDANI: Well, I think the war is kind of different. You have AQAP right now fighting with the Houthi rebels, and they're fighting in different governments (ph). And I think what's happening is a lot of the people of Yemen feel like they have to take sides. Some people are being recruited to Houthi rebel movement; they're being linked (ph) to al Qaeda and the Arabian peninsula. And at the same time, you have some jihadist groups there, pledging allegiance to ISIS in Iraq. And so what you have is two factions fighting over power. And I think that's -- that's what it's going to be about for the time being.
BLITZER: Sama al-Hamdani, thanks very much for coming in.
Peter, thanks to you.
Barbara, of course, thanks to you, as well.
Up next, deadly new violence between the Israelis and Palestinians. Is this is the start of a new uprising? I'll ask the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
And the Virginia kidnapping suspect goes before a judge this week. Will his lawyers try to go for an insanity defense?
BLITZER: Violence in the West Bank. A Palestinian has been killed in a clash with Israeli troops. That follows the stabbing death of two Israelis. As unrest surges, let's go live to Jerusalem. CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is standing by with the latest. What is the latest, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a 21- year-old Palestinian man, according to friends and family, was on the roof of his house taking part in an anniversary celebration, they said, of the tenth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader.
What we have heard from the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, is that this young man pointed a homemade gun at the soldiers there. They fired a shot. He was fatally wounded, died. Body was taken by its family to the hospital, Wolf. This is an isolated incident today, but it does highlight how tense the situation at the moment is.
We're heard from the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu here. They say that he has put more troops in the West Bank and is considering tougher measures for those who throw rocks to the point of even fines for their family members as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: A very, very dangerous situation. Nic, let's turn the corner to Iran. The prime minister of Iran also was responding to a tweet from Iran's supreme leader calling for Israel's annihilation. Tell us what Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
ROBERTSON: Yes. Iran's supreme leader not only called for Israel's annihilation but called the regime here barbaric, wolf-like and infanticidal. I mean, extreme language. The prime minister here responded this evening with quite strong words of his home. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL'S PRIME MINISTER: That's apparently the Iranian idea of modernity: tweeting about the annihilation of Israel. These aren't mere words. They're not just statements thrown out in the air, which is harmful enough. The regime in Iran's rhetoric is also backed by murderous action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: And also the prime minister here had a very strong message, as well, about the upcoming talks with Iran to deal with its nuclear capability. His point was that the world has a choice here, and the option cannot be to leave Iran in a position where it can shortly acquire nuclear weapons, today or in the future, and then at the same time lifting sanctions off Iran. So real concern from Israel about how those talks are going to go in the coming days, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Israel for us. Nic, thanks very, very much. Nic is on the scene for us, as he always is.
The prime minister, by the way, was speaking to Jewish leaders here in Washington via satellite.
Joining us now also from Jerusalem is Mark Regev. He's the spokesman for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Let's get through some of these issues quickly, Mark. The military-
to-military relationship between the U.S. and Israel is strong. The intelligence relationship is strong. But this personal relationship between your prime minister and President Obama seems to be rather strained right now. How would you describe it?
MARK REGEV, BENJAMIN NETANYAHU'S SPOKESMAN: Well, obviously we're close allies. We're close friends as you've just said, Wolf. I think my prime minister said today that the United States does not have a better friend in the world than the state of Israel, and the state of Israel does not have a better friend in the world than the United States of America.
But that doesn't mean we have to agree on every issue, and the truth is we don't. And when we have a disagreement, we talk about it openly and frankly, as friends should.
BLITZER: And that quote the other day, we saw in that Jeffrey Goldberg article in "The Atlantic," a really derogatory term that some unnamed U.S. official, Obama administration official leveled against the prime minister of Israel. What's been your reaction to that?
REGEV: The relationship, the relationship between Israel and the United States is so strong, based on common values and shared interests. The relationship between the peoples of our two countries is so solid that I don't think any bad-mouthing by some unnamed official is going to hurt that relationship.
BLITZER: What about this pretty tough criticism that the administration is leveling -- the White House, the State Department -- involving Israel's settlement policies in East Jerusalem and the West Bank?
REGEV: Well, here we say clearly in Israel that Jerusalem is not a settlement. And what we're talking about is planning for construction in neighborhoods inside the city of Jerusalem.
And, you know, Wolf -- and you've covered this closer than almost everyone -- that the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem stay inside Israel in any possible peace agreement. There's no question of that. Even the Palestinians themselves have publicly recognized that and stated that for all to hear.
So we would ask, if you're building in a neighborhood that is going to stay part of Israel anyway, why is there such a problem for peace?
BLITZER: Well, the administration, the Obama administration thinks it's a huge problem, if you listen to the statements, the reaction coming out of the State Department and the White House. And I assume you disagree with the U.S. when it comes to that criticism.
REGEV: Jerusalem is our capital. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for some 3,000 years. And obviously, we have a very special attachment to the city, and the idea that we can't build in our capital is something that we simply don't accept. BLITZER: We've seen in recent days these car attacks against
Israelis. We've seen these stabbings of Israelis. Now we see a Palestinian was killed and there's talk, at least in the Israeli media, of some Israelis engaging in revenge attacks against Palestinians. It sounds pretty worrisome to me what's going on.
You're there in Jerusalem. What's your sense of a potential escalation leading to maybe even a third intifada?
REGEV: Well, we have seen some violence, and that's unfortunate. What we're trying to do is a maximum effort to try to calm things down with a greater police presence and dealing effectively with ring leaders of the violence. But basically, we want to return calm, to return peace and quiet as soon as possible, and that's our goal.
All of this is stemmed, ultimately, from Islamic extremists, who have been talking about some imaginary threat to the Islamic holy sites, especially the mosques. Now, this is a fabrication. It's simply not true. Israel is not in any way going to change the status quo. We protect all the holy sites of all faiths.
But those Islamic extremists have been spreading this sort of unfounded rumors, and it's been causing tension and problems.
And a real concern has been that unfortunately mainstream Palestinian leadership has been echoing some of these irrational claims. I think Palestinian leadership should be doing a much stronger job in trying to help us calm things down.
BLITZER: Mark Regev is the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel.
Mark, thanks very much for joining us.
REGEV: My pleasure, sir.
BLITZER: And let's hope it does calm down over there.
Up next, as the main suspect in the kidnapping of the University of Virginia student Hannah Graham prepares to go before a judge, there's now new talk about the possible use of an insanity defense. Stand by for the latest.
And a rare public appearance by the parents of Michael Brown. This time on the world stage. You're going to hear what they're saying about the police officer who shot and killed their son.
BLITZER: The suspect in the kidnapping of the University of Virginia student Hannah Graham has been meeting with his attorneys as they prepare to go before a judge this week. And it sparked a lot of discussion about whether his legal team will try to go for an insanity defense.
So let's get the latest from investigative journalist Coy Barefoot and our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI.
Coy, what do you think? Lots of speculation there about whether Jesse Matthews' legal team will try to argue an insanity defense. Is that something we should anticipate? What is your sense?
COY BAREFOOT, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Wolf, all I can say is good luck with that. There is a lot of chatter online and social media speculating about whether or not we will see an insanity defense. And we could hear as early as Friday when we hear some motions in that status hearing whether or not they might be taking this seriously with the defense. But I can tell you, every source that I have talked to who is close to this case thinks that that is not at all likely.
Jesse Matthew has given no indication of being insane. He was most recently training at the University of Virginia Hospital. His last job was a patient care technician. A PCT. That's the guy that sets up the emergency rooms for procedures. You hook up the wrong tube to the wrong machine, you're going to kill somebody. He is not a bright guy, he is not a smart guy. Everybody I talked to who knows him says he seems low and a bit dim-witted. That does not make him insane.
Look, what happened on the night of September 24th, 2005, in Fairfax, that was not the work of an insane man. That was the actions of a criminal sexual predator. And according to the witness, the victim, and according to the DNA that was found beneath her fingernail, that criminal sexual predator is a man named Jesse Matthew, who, as we speak, is behind bars here in Charlottesville.
BLITZER: Tom, how difficult is it to successfully argue an insanity defense in a case like there?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Very difficult, Wolf. I completely agree with everything Coy just said about that. He would have a very difficult time arguing, again, the work that he's done, the things that he's done over the years and the deliberate nature of them. You know, he's not going to be able to, I think, mount a successful effort in that regard.
BLITZER: The other speculation, Coy, as you well know, is that maybe there could be some sort of plea deal to avoid the death sentence and maybe even cop a plea, get life, something like that. You've heard the speculation?
BAREFOOT: Absolutely. But in Fairfax, and this is something people need to understand. Jesse Matthew is charged with three felonies. Abduction, rape and attempted capital murder. That victim miraculously and thankfully she survived. He did not kill her. And so this is not a capital case. He could not get the death penalty in Fairfax.
Does that remain a possibility with Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham? Absolutely. But the charges with which he's faced -- if he's found guilty on all three of those charges in Fairfax, the sentence would be 35 years to life. And I think what we're going to see is the defense trying to negotiate as close to that 35 years as possible. BLITZER: And then what happens if they do negotiation like that? He
cops a plea. There could still be other charges down the road or do those go away for the other two cases?
FUENTES: Right. That's the important thing to keep in mind here is that depending on what plea he takes, he becomes a convicted sex offender, then that makes it easier in the prosecution of the future cases that may come up. You know, there are so many other investigations underway right now at one stage or another. I think they will all be held in abeyance until the conclusion of the Fairfax case. And those cases will be enhanced by the fact that he becomes a convicted sex offender.
And I think the prosecutors will be well aware of that. So he may argue for a few years one way or another but these other cases are looming over his head right now as well.
BLITZER: What a story this is.
All right. So, Coy, you're getting ready for Friday when he shows up via video once again. He's not going to be there in Fairfax. It's going to be via video, right?
BAREFOOT: I believe so, Wolf. I've heard nothing from my sources that he will be moved to Fairfax for the status hearing on Friday morning. That's expected to be a rather quick hearing. He'll go in front of the camera at the jail hear in Charlottesville. He'll appear before Judge Dennis Smith on the video.
There'll be a series of motions. They're likely to pick judge that will actually oversee the actual trial. And they have set in Fairfax and they're absolutely committed to moving this thing forward quickly.
BLITZER: All right.
BAREFOOT: So we're going to see that trial start sooner rather than later.
BLITZER: And Fairfax is right outside of Washington, D.C., in suburban northern Virginia.
Coy, thanks very much. Tom, thanks to you as well.
Coming up, as Ferguson braces for possible violence, the parents of the slain teenager Michael Brown, they're in Switzerland right now where they appeared before a United Nations panel on torture. And a major development in the 5-year-old mystery, a suspect finally facing arraignment for the deaths of a California family. And he was no stranger to the victims.