On Sunday, a gunman went on a shooting rampage in a popular gay nightclub and killed 49 innocent people. The assailant was identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a U.S. citizen from Port St. Lucie, Florida, whom his ex-wife described as bipolar and violent. Although DAESH is claimed to have assumed responsibility for the deadliest mass shooting in the nation's history, President Barack Obama announced that Mateen was probably a lone wolf who was radicalized by extremist propaganda online.
To be clear, similar attacks took place in 2007 and 2012. But the presidential race will inevitably increase its political significance. In the wake of the mass shooting, the American public focused on three elements in particular: Mateen's alleged ties to Islamic radicalism, the targeting of the LGBTQ community and the assailant's access to assault weapons. Although Obama described the incident as an "act of terror and act of hate," it is much more significant that Orlando has already become a hot topic in the battle between presumptive presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Having faced mounting pressure over his racist comments about Muslims, Trump has found an opportunity to continue his polarizing campaign. Unable to convince the Republican establishment, he will exploit the tragedy to push the Democrats to the corner. Unsurprisingly, Trump's first move was to brag about "being right on radical Islamic terrorism" on Twitter. Next, he called on Obama to resign and criticized Clinton for being soft on terrorists. Just hours after the Orlando shooting, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was already telling his supporters that radical Islam hates women, homosexuals, Jews, Christians and all Americans. For the sake of "making America great again," Trump is going against American tradition by blaming hate crimes and terrorism on Muslims.
To be clear, the Orlando shooting puts Clinton in a difficult position. While convincing the American people, who are increasingly sensitive about the DAESH threat, that she will go after terrorists, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has to resist the temptation to ride the anti-Muslim wave of sentiments. To keep Trump out of the White House, Obama needs to help Clinton by telling voters that she played a big role in the assassination of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. More important, the Obama administration might step up the counter-DAESH effort in order to address the electorate's concerns, which means more support from coalition allies.
Unfortunately for Obama, the United States has been working closely with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. If he provides additional support to this PKK franchise, Washington's ties with Ankara will suffer. A viable alternative would be to launch a joint operation with Ankara through local groups as proxies. Either way, the Orlando shooting marks the beginning of a new chapter in the fight against DAESH.