al qaeda

Al Qaeda has long struggled with controlling its Iraqi offshoot. Now it seems as if Ayman al-Zawahiri has had enough. The level of direct coordination between Al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan and the group that originally was known as Al Qaeda in Iraq has always been limited - and has appeared pretty much dead since 2006.

A long New Yorker profile of President Obama provides a great deal of insight into how the president and his administration view the undeniable expansion of jihadist groups claiming allegiance to al Qaeda. “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” President Obama said, distinguishing between groups that are “actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland” and those who are “engaged in various local power struggles and disputes.”

Jihadists have been on the internet a long time, and they probably know how to use it better than you do. Since the early years of the world wide web, radical Islamist groups used it for a number of different jihad-y means, from recruitment and financing to propaganda and communication. But how has this changed over the past decade, and in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations of NSA spying, what does the future hold for jihadists and the internet?

Al Qaeda's reign of terror over most of rebel-held Syria may have finally been broken last Friday. On Jan. 3, secular and religious Syrians in various rebel-held towns and cities protested against the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The protests evolved into clashes between ISIS and two rebel groups -- the newly formed Jaish al-Mujahideen and the newly organized Syrian Revolutionaries Front.

With the rise of al-Qaeda, increasingly repressive regimes, and weak, even collapsing states, the Arab Spring is looking more and more like a nightmare for U.S. security interests. Perhaps, then, it makes some sense that the Obama administration would increase security assistance to the Middle East, from 69 percent of the total budget request for 2014 to 80 percent. However, this also entails a significant reduction in democracy assistance to the region, which will drop from $459.2 million to $298.3 million. Congress might further deepen these cuts.

While bombings in Baghdad killed at least 34 people Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said America would help Iraq battle the al Qaeda militants that overtaken two of the nation’s western cities — but emphasized that the fight belonged to them. Kerry said that the U.S. was concerned over the mounting violence in the Anbar province, where al Qaeda militants have overtaken the capital city of Ramadi as well as Fallujah, USA Today reports. But he cautioned that intervention was not an option.

The U.S. may continue to support the Iraqi fight against Al Qaeda insurgents, but not with manpower, John Kerry said Sunday. After Islamist militants linked to Al Qaeda took control of the two major cities in the Sunni Muslim-dominated province of Anbar, the Secretary of State told reporters in Jerusalem that while the Shi'ite-led government would have America's support, there was no question of American troops returning to Iraq.

The United States announced recently that it was suspending aid to the rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This comes amidst reports that other Western countries are now gradually withdrawing their military support to the rebel forces. Should the suspension of U.S. assistance be made permanent?