Orlando attack proves America not immune to the ISIS disease

The massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando, America, that left 50 dead and more injured has been claimed by ISIS

Dr. Theodore Karasik
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That an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) aspirant killed over 53 people and injured another 50 at the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida, is confirmed. Questions are now being asked about Omar Mateen’s recruitment and his social networks. Also under scrutiny are the mistakes that may have been made in background checks allowing him access to a weapon.

There’s more. Terms such as “lone wolf” are being bantered about digital media. Mateen’s Uzbek-born wife said that her ex-husband had become radicalized and violent, thus divorcing him recently. More information is beginning to appear and investigations are ongoing at the US federal and state level officials.

The Orlando killings during a gay pride event are the worst terrorist attack to have taken place in the United States since 9/11. However, there is much more significance to this horrific event that may be a harbinger for the near-term.

First, it’s all about timing. For two years in a row ISIS is making sure that high value attacks occur during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Last year, ISIS used the 6th and 9th days of Ramadan to execute prisoners in new, shocking ways, in France through decapitation and mutilation, automatic weapons fired upon European beach tourists in Tunisia, and a targeted suicide bombing on a Shiite mosque in Kuwait. Looks like ISIS adherents want the tradition continued with Orlando.

Of course, a majority of analysts would say that ISIS had a command and control element over this operation. Whether true or not such a connection doesn’t matter to the key fact: ISIS is in America, Period. No further proof for the naysayers is necessary.

With the abundance of online recruiting material and other illicit support, there is no doubt that ISIS continues to be a major attraction to US based followers where over one hundred ISIS suspects are under arrest and thousands more under surveillance. In the Orlando case, it appears that Mateen was able to succeed due to the continued stovepipes between various US Federal and State agencies. Other ISIS followers will act out too on days that inspire these foot soldiers.

A second point is that Mateen tapped into ISIS’s homophobia to choose this American community as a unique target. As we know, ISIS carries out executions of gay men on a regular basis. ISIS media is also replete with anti-gay hatred ever since the group’s foundation and the creation of the so-called Caliphate. It’s only logical that ISIS’s homophobic messaging got through to Mateen which begs the question of how many other potential recruits harbor this ill and violent intent.

Election landscape

Third, the Orlando attack is quick to become part of the of US presidential election landscape. Naturally, the tragedy illuminates the sharp divides between the two candidates on who will be tougher on ISIS as President of the United States but also on a host of other American domestic issues including gun control, and of course, migrant policy.

The theme here is that attacking a gay pride event will certainly affect the tone and tenor of an already highly volatile US presidential election. Social media has erupted into a pro and anti-gay stance, some arguing ISIS just handed Republic party nominee Donald Trump a victory in November.


Social media has erupted into a pro and anti-gay stance, some arguing ISIS just handed Republic party nominee Donald Trump a victory in November.

Dr. Theodore Karasik

Other tweets were highly anti-Muslim. This type of sentiment is dangerous and is exactly what ISIS seeks as an ideological goal: sowing discord, hate, and divide communities, especially in the United States, the supposed bastion where community harmony means ISIS could never take root in the United States. Not true. According to a Jordanian official, “it is quite possible that an ISIS planner came up with the Orlando attack plan to muff up the US presidential election.”

Overall, it’s important to point out the ISIS model in the United States as a result of the Orlando tragedy. Those who argue that ISIS is not coming to the United States are now flatly proven wrong. ISIS is here and has been here for a while and will not go away anytime soon.

The model did not appear now but last year with San Bernardino shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. In addition, Mateen’s “shoutout” to the Boston Marathon Bombers, the Tsanaev’s brothers, is notable for those who attack Americans from American territory. Significantly, ISIS followers in America continue to read, learn, and plot. Remember, ISIS is an airborne disease and this ideology wants America to attack them wherever they are.

With Ramadan and the Eids, combined with numerous elections and referendum coming around the world, linked with the ongoing four city attack on ISIS cities – Sirte, Raqqa, Fallujah, and, ultimately, Mosul, there is likely to be many more Orlandos unless proactive measures are taken quickly and in earnest by serious policymakers and officials. America is clearly not immune to the ISIS disease.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans. He tweets @tkarasik

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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