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November 25th, 2008
03:42 PM ET

Unsettling times for jihadists

David Ignatius
Washington Post

Let's try for a moment to read the mind of an al-Qaeda operative in the remote mountains of Waziristan as he listens to the news on the radio. His worldview has been roiled recently by two events - one confounding his image of the West and the other confirming it.

The upsetting news for our imaginary jihadist is the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. This wasn't supposed to happen, in al-Qaeda's playbook. Its aim was to draw the "far enemy" (meaning America) ever deeper onto the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, the jihadists must cope with a president-elect who promises to get out of Iraq and whose advisers are talking about negotiating with the Taliban. And to top it off, the guy's middle name is Hussein.

Before the election, the radical Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradhawi even issued a fatwa supporting John McCain: "Personally, I would prefer for the Republican candidate, McCain, to be elected. This is because I prefer the obvious enemy who does not hypocritically [conceal] his hostility toward you . . . to the enemy who wears a mask [of friendliness]."

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Filed under: Barack Obama • David Ignatius • Global 360° • Islam • Raw Politics