- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Jihadi terrorist groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia are looking to leverage the election win of Donald Trump as president of the United States as a call to arms on social media, while others are reaching out to the next administration in an attempt to end U.S. involvement in their countries.

However, regional security analysts, as well as some on Arab streets, see Mr. Trump as a conduit for shifting the balance of power in the Middle East away from Iran’s growing influence and toward Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.

“Trump reveals the true mentality of the Americans and their racism toward Muslims and Arabs. He reveals what his predecessors used to conceal,” Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a veteran al Qaeda ideologue, posted on his Twitter account shortly after Mr. Trump secured an electoral victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton early Wednesday.

“Trump’s term may be the beginning of America’s fragmentation and the era of its breakup,” Mr. al-Maqdisi said, according to the online news agency NOW, which tracks jihadi organizations in the region.

Amaq News Agency, the online propaganda wing of the Islamic State, said online that Mr. Trump’s ascent to the White House constituted a U.S. “War on Islam,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which analyzes jihadi social media outlets.

During the long and brutal presidential campaign, Mr. Trump infamously called for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigrants attempting to enter the United States. The president-elect also vowed to institute a process of “extreme vetting” of all individuals seeking to emigrate to the United States from countries in the Middle East.

“Trump’s victory is a powerful slap to those promoting the benefits of democratic mechanisms,” Hamza al-Karibi, a media official with the Syrian jihadi group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, tweeted Wednesday.

Mr. Trump’s characterizations of Muslims, much like his loaded campaign rhetoric regarding Hispanics and blacks, has beguiled and occasionally infuriated those on Arab streets.

“Not all of us want to move to your country,” Mahmud Hazem, a Vodafone call-center worker in Egypt, told The Washington Times. “But the Egyptians who did move there are not terrorists and they are not on welfare. Saying none of us can come because of religion is a kind of racism.”

The social and political schisms within the American electorate, exacerbated by the Trump campaign and aided by his successful bid for the White House, has created fertile ground for the jihadi group to cultivate recruits inside and outside the U.S.

“His victory further exposes America and its appendages” to increased activity by al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist groups, said Mr. al-Maqdisi.

While some extremist jihadi groups are looking to demonize Mr. Trump’s election, others are reaching out to the incoming administration and view the next occupant of the White House as a vehicle for change from President Obama’s muddled Middle East policies.

Taliban leaders on Wednesday issued a statement calling for the president-elect to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and end Washington’s involvement in the country.

“Our message to him is that the U.S. government policies should be made in a way that do not compromise with the freedom of the other nations and do not seek its interests in the killing and conviction of the others,” according to the statement, reported by Afghan news agency Khaama Press.

This undercurrent of vague optimism has begun to resonate among decision-makers in the region, who will look to a Trump White House as a means to readjust the power balance in the Middle East.

There is hope among Gulf Arab leaders that Mr. Trump may reverse what has largely been perceived as a dangerous shift by the Obama White House toward warmer relations with Iran, to the frustration of Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

“I think Trump will get the GCC countries back involved in the discussion about regional strategy. Obama did this nuclear deal with Iran without taking into account Arab and Gulf state views on it,” Ahmed Al Hamli, founder and president of Trends Research & Advisory, an Abu Dhabi-based think tank, told The Times on Wednesday.

“This is why Gulf states are seen not to be satisfied with the deal,” Mr. Al Hamli said. “If they had been engaged in the discussion from the beginning, I think they would have been more accepting to the deal, and I think a Trump administration will push for such engagement.”

Regarding Mr. Trump’s comments about Muslim immigrants on the campaign trail, Mr. Al Hamli argued that they carried little relevance within the region.

“His statements about banning Muslims from coming to America were driven from the fear of terrorism,” Mr. Al Hamli said, adding that those comments “don’t seem to be relevant” in the ongoing dialogue in the region regarding relations with the U.S.

Jennifer Collins and Austin Davis contributed to this report.

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