Now that Ayman Zawahiri has assumed leadership of al-Qaeda, it is important to end the widespread perception that he is a dour intellectual who is disconnected from young, would-be jihadists. The fact is, Zawahiri is a wily, dangerous and imposing leader who should be considered no less of a threat -- and perhaps even more so -- than his predecessor.
Like Osama bin Laden, the Egyptian Zawahiri has jihadi bona fides and served in the Afghan war against the Soviets, primarily as a physician. But bin Laden was never imprisoned and tortured, as Zawahiri was, after the assassination of Anwar Sadat by Islamic Jihad, which he headed. From his prison cell he memorably delivered a passionate speech -- in English no less. Seeing a video of it dispels any notion that he is an uncharismatic leader.