- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, 70, facing trouncing in upcoming elections, announces his retirement from politics.
- Analysts weigh in.
- State Department cancels Andrew W.K.’s trip to Bahrain.
- Russia sent Syria tons of cash, ProPublica investigation finds.
- Gaza conflict further imperils two-state solution.
- Hamas backs Abbas’ UN bid.
- Yossi Beilin argues Israel and US should support Palestinian UN statehood bid.
- Iran criticizes US for cancelling WMD-free Middle East conference.
- The motley group who pushed Iron Dome against the skeptics.
- Turkey FM Davutoglu confirms resumption of reconciliation talks with Israel. Continue reading
- US looks to renew Iran talks after November elections (Barbara Slavin/Al Monitor)
- Iran should have declared victory and shut Fordow (Mark Fitzpatrick)
- Ahmadinejad “confidential memo” leaked (Eskander Sadeghi-Borujerdi/Al Monitor’s Iran Pulse)
- FP source suggests US-Israel mulling joint surgical strike on Iran (David Rothkopf)
- Egypt’s Morsi at 100 days (Bassem Sabry/Al Monitor)
- Anti-Islam video maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, aka Sam Bacile, changes his name again; now going by Mark Basseley Youssef, he is due in court on probation violation charge this week. (Reuters)
- Ofer Biton, the Israeli ex-fundraiser for Rep. Michael Grimm, got his $1.5 million bail paid by former Grimm business partner who is tied to the mob, US prosecutors allege. (NY Post/NY Times) Continue reading
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, one of the people behind a crude video that has set off a storm of protests across the Middle East, has been taken by Los Angeles police for questioning over whether he violated the terms of his probation.
Shortly after midnight, “Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies escorted a man believed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula to an awaiting car,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The man declined to answer questions on his way out and wore a hat and a towel over his face.”
A sheriff’s office spokesman Steve Whitmore “told the (LA )Times that Nakoula was taken in for a voluntary interview with probation officials and has not been arrested or detained”
Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2010 for federal bank fraud.
A defense attorney arguing for a shorter sentence for Nakoula in the 2010 bank fraud case told the court that the defendant’s cooperation should be taken into consideration. “He’s undergone extensive debriefings. … He has implicated [Eiad] Salamey.”
“I decided to cooperate with the government to retrieve some of these mistakes or damage,” Nakoula told the judge, according to the court transcript obtained by The Smoking Gun. “I want to cooperate with the government that they can catch with this other criminals who is their involvement.” Continue reading
A somber Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the transfer of remains ceremony for four US diplomatic personnel killed in Libya Friday, called on the people and leaders of the Middle East to reject mob violence.
“The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob,” Clinton said at the solemn ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland Friday, flanked by President Obama.
“Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts,” she continued.
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns accompanied the remains of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and US diplomatic security officers Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Glen Doherty on the flight from the region to Andrews Air Force Base.
“We will bring to justice those who took them from us,” President Obama vowed at the ceremony.
Clinton, clearly grieving, recounted the great affection and genuine respect she, State Department colleagues and the Libyan people had for Stevens. “People loved to work with Chris, and as he rose through the ranks they loved to work for Chris,” Clinton said. “He was known not only for his courage but for his smile.”
She cited as but one example of the affection with which Stevens was held by Libyans the hand-written sign carried by one veiled woman in Benghazi: “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam.”
“We will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines, and move forward undaunted,” Clinton vowed.
Protests, sometimes violent, against American and Western targets spread to several countries Friday, including Tunisia, the West Bank, Sinai and Sudan. This Google map captures the extent of the protests. The demonstrations have been spurred in part by anger over a crude anti-Islamic video trailer posted to YouTube by an Egyptian American convicted felon, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
A cameraman for Al-Monitor filming a mob of thousands protesting at the US Embassy in Tunisia Friday was surrounded and assaulted by a group of bearded Salafi men.
Black smoke rose from the US Embassy north of the capital Tunis after an explosion. The angry mob also pillaged the American school next door, he recounted in a dispatch.
Much about the case of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the alleged director of the anti-Islam video, doesn’t add up.
For instance, federal prison records show that Nakoula was released from prison for bank fraud in late June 2011. Yet he was shooting the film that was made into the video that has provoked violent protests across the Middle East just one month later, in July 2011, according to a Craigslist casting call and reported interviews with actors who worked on the low-budget film.
Law enforcement officials, speaking anonymously, also seemed suspiciously quick to ID Nakoula as the filmmaker behind the video, when so many aspects of the video’s provenance are murky.
Criminal records also show that Nakoula had served two other prison sentences, one following his arrest in 1997 for intent to make methamphetamine, and a later one in 2002 for violating the terms of his probation. But much about how those cases remains murky.
Journalists Christine Pelisek and Michael Daly, writing at The Daily Beast, raise the theory, was Nakoula an informant?
Nakoula’s lawyer is not returning phone calls or responding to emails, but it seems reasonable to wonder if Nakoula’s case was not part of this investigation. One question that bears asking is whether Nakoula helped persuade the feds that the drug money was going to Muslim extremists. He is a Coptic Christian. […]
In the court file for the second case, Indictment CR09-00617, the records regarding the plea deal are sealed. That can be construed as another indication that Nakoula had previously been an informant. His lawyer is not responding to calls or emails regarding this, either.
In a case where so little of the official story adds up, this theory seems plausible.
Queries to Thom Mrozak, spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles about the Nakoula case by Al-Monitor were not answered.