The stunning magnitude of Hezbollah’s illicit activities around the world is shown in a new, interactive map created by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American pro-Israel think tank based in Washington, DC, which was established in 1985 with the support of AIPAC and many AIPAC donors.
The interactive, online map includes some 1,000 incidents and activities over close to half a century, including a bombing plot in Cyprus, a bus bombing in Bulgaria, and Hezbollah’s role in supporting the Assad regime in the Syrian Civil War.
The site describes the Lebanese Hezbollah as a global, multifaceted organization, engaged in a wide range of endeavors, including overt social and political activities in Lebanon, military activities in Lebanon, Syria, and throughout the Middle East, and covert militant, criminal, and terrorist activities around the world.”
The Lebanese Hezbollah Interactive Map notes that Hezbollah is very public about its social and political activities, but the group goes to great lengths to conceal its covert and illicit pursuits. In the words of one Hezbollah operative, the “golden rule” of the Islamic Jihad Organization (a.k.a. External Security Organization)—the entity responsible for Hezbollah international terrorism operations—is “the less you know about the unit, the better.” When information about Hezbollah’s covert and illicit activities does come to light, it typically happens in small bursts—a fact here, a snippet there. Another reason for the dearth of publicly available material about Hezbollah operations is that governments, while collecting significant amounts of information on the subject, are wary of using that classified information in any public way for fear of revealing intelligence-collection sources and methods.
The Lebanese Hezbollah Select Worldwide Activity Interactive Map and Timeline aims to fill the knowledge gap in the West about the terrorist group. As an interactive multimedia tool, the map is searchable by category, location, timeline, and text keywords. Each entry includes photographs or videos, a summary of the event, geographic and/or thematic linkages to other related entries in the map, as well as primary-source documents.
Launching with approximately a thousand entries, complemented by hundreds of documents—comprising declassified government reports, court documents, congressional testimony, and research reports—it constitutes the largest database of open-source documentation on Hezbollah’s malign activity and the counterterrorism actions against it. As a “living” project, the digital interface will be updated as more information and documentation becomes available.
This project illuminates the full geographic and temporal range of Hezbollah’s activities, from granular logistics such as travel routes, aliases, operatives, and handlers, to larger themes related to the organization’s founding and development, its relationship with key state sponsors, and its unitary nature. Nicholas Rasmussen, former director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, described the map as a “tremendous resource,” adding, “It helps draw connections among all the different pieces of Hezbollah-related activity around the world in a way that no other tool I have seen has succeeded in doing.” The tool is designed for policymakers, intelligence analysts, law enforcement officials, journalists, academics, researchers, and students alike.