The killing of 12 journalists in Paris could just as well have been described as an execution or as "butchery". If it could have been committed by Al Qaida operatives connected to Yemen, as Jason Burke suggests, then the question is what point the attacks serve as far as creating terror is concerned.
Al Qaida may have attempted to start off 2015 by a spectacular attack to reposition itself against the stiff competition presented by ISIS throughout 2014. From Syria to Iraq, and then into Sinai in Egypt and down into Libya and into sub-Saharan Africa, the ISIS 'brand' has caught on.
That has left Al Qaida in Yemen, as Burke comments, "the only official affiliate of the organisation founded by the late Osama bin Laden which has consistently shown an interest in striking the west – and has come close to successfully doing so – for many years".
Al Qaida might want to be restored to the global spotlight by demonstrating its capacity to execute 'infidels' and so trigger off anger against Muslims in the west. This could then be used to radicalise them against western states at a time of increased drone attacks on Al Qaida in Yemen.
Throughout 2013 and 2014 drone strikes have been criticised even by US allies in Yemen for killing civilians and so radicalising Sunni tribesmen against the government in what has been an increasingly unstable land since the Arab Spring revolt of 2011 has become, as with Syria, a sectarian proxy war
As Bill Roggio from Long War Journal commented “The local fuels the external. They will become more dangerous the more they draw local support...As Washington’s ally in Yemen, president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, gets weaker, US ability to strike Al Qaeda will diminish over time after losing its partner”.
One way to try to regain the upper hand over ISIS as the bogeyman of the west and to provoke the western powers into retaliation and a renewed 'war on terror' that ratchets up the idea of a 'clash of civilisations' would be to carry out an atrocity such as the attack on the Charlie Harbo magazine office.
ISIS, in fact, has not been effective in carrying out any terror action in the west as yet, though its global' appeal to foreign jihadists appears to have been more effective. To prevent ISIS predominating, as in Syria and Iraq, Al Qaida renewed attacks on Shi'ites in Yemen with a suicide bomb yesterday.
With Al Qaida attacking targets in Mali on the same day ( January 6 ), a land where France has been using reaper drones to assert its security ( i.e. resource ) interests across central Africa, the broader context to the murderous attack in Paris is the long war going on elsewhere.
It is unlikely that Western states such as France or Britain will not 'overreact' to the terror threat. For it is this global threat provides them with the pretext to intervene militarily to uphold access to and control over the resources and the energy supply routes their consumer economies rely on too much.