According to the planning Iran's war leaders developed in recent weeks in conjunction with Syria and its Lebanese Shiite proxy, Hizballah elite units would respond to a possible Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities by sweeping south across the border and taking hold of swathes of northern Israel. This would be in pursuance of the classical IDF doctrine of taking the war into enemy territory and assume that, at the same time, Israeli armored columns and infantry divisions would head north to hit Hizballah strongholds in southern and central Lebanon and blaze a path to Damascus.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources, Tehran favors retaliation-by-invasion in preference to the missile blitz of population centers which Hizballah unleashed in 2006 – both in terms of military gains and because it would put Israel's back to the wall in a way it has not experienced since the Yom Kippur War of October 1973.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards instructors at especially established facilities near Tehran are already well advanced in training a cadre of 5,000 Hizballah fighters in special operations and urban combat tactics to standards equivalent to those current in similar US and Israeli military forces.
At the outset of the course, the group was split up into five battalions, each given a specific northern Israeli sector for capture with details of its topography and population for close study.
(See attached map for the territories assigned to each Hizballah battalion).
Capturing and holding Galilee towns of Nahariya and Shlomi
This unit will break through the Naqura-Rosh Haniqra border pass and sweep south along seven kilometers to seize Nahariya, the Israeli Mediterranean city of 55,000 – or parts thereof.
UN peacekeepers have their headquarters at Naqura, the other side of Rosh Haniqra, and Israel defenses there are lax, so no military or geographic obstacles to this Hizballah drive are anticipated. This battalion will capture a large number of Israeli hostages for use as live shields against an Israeli counter-attack
A small group of 150 fighters, trained by Revolutionary Guards marines, will also try and reach the coast by swift boats. They are already standing by in Lebanon.
This unit is assigned to capture the northern Israeli town of Shlomi, 300 meters southeast of the Naqura border pass and home to 6,500 inhabitants. Holding this town and its environs will give Hizballah control of a key road hub and stand in the path of Israeli reinforcements heading for Nahariya through routes 89 and 899 from key Israeli bases in the Galilee and Upper Galilee regions to the east. (See map).
Driving further south than any other Hizballah unit, this battalion must reach the three Israeli-Arab villages of B'ina, Deir al-Asad and Majd el-Krum, which are located north of the town of Carmiel and alongside Israel's Route 85 which connects Acre on the Mediterranean with Safad in the central Galilee mountains.
An Arab-Israeli uprising to hamper Israeli military movements
Iranian war planners want Hizballah to control the three Israeli-Arab locations for two advantages:
One: To acquire a commanding position for stirring up the disaffected Israeli-Arab villages and towns of Lower Galilee and Wadi Ara to the south into a full-blown uprising. The incoming combat force will be backed up by clandestine Hizballah cells which for some years have established, armed and funded the underground "Galilee Liberation Battalions” in Sakhnin, Araba and Deir Hana, by means of drug smugglers.
Hizballah's West Bank cells have been active for some time in the Wadi Ara region, through which National Route 65 connects central Israel to the North.
Two: To gain fire control of Acre-Safed Route 85 from positions in occupied Arab villages and so have a shield ready for the Hizballah units holding Nahariya and Shlomi, and seriously impede the passage of Israeli forces from bases in the center of the country to relieve these northern towns. The Israeli Air Force will be constrained from attacking the areas held by Hizballah by the presence of large civilian populations.
This battalion will push southeast into the Kadesh Valley, on the rim of which the Makia and Yiftah kibbutzim and Makia moshav are clustered. Capture of these locations would afford Hizballah fire coverage of Israel's northernmost region, the Galilee Panhandle.
Hizballah's Strategic Reserve.
The Tehran-Hizballah war strategy is all but ready for any contingency. The obvious trigger would be an Israeli military operation against Iran's nuclear facilities, but once all the elements are in place, they could be activated by any other pretext conjured up in Tehran or Damascus.
Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah is straining at the leash to attack Israel however the crisis over Iran's nuclear program turns out.
Sunday, January 17, he said: "I promise you, in view of all the threats you hear today… that should a new war with the Zionists erupt, we [the Lebanese resistance movement] will crush the enemy, come out victorious, and change the face of the region.
"God willing, Israel, the occupation, hegemony, and arrogance are in the process of disappearing!"
Nasrallah was not alone in anticipating a troubled year for the Middle East.
Syria may step in even without an Israeli attack
Political insider Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Security and Foreign Relations Committee said earlier this month: "Since it is obvious that the Obama administration is not going to solve the Iranian nuclear issue, 2010 will be a fateful year in the history of Israel."
Our analysts took him to mean that Israel would have to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat itself while appreciating that the cost might be heavy.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of confidentiality, chipped in by leaking this comment to the Kuwait newspaper Al-Rai: “If Syria allows surface-to-air missiles SA-2 to go through to Hizballah in Lebanon, war will break out and Tel Aviv will hit Damascus directly.”
This official was confirming the perception that more than one trigger existed for a possible outbreak of hostilities and Syria would probably be involved. Israel is determined as a top priority to prevent the SA-2 reaching Hizballah's hands.
Following reports that Syria has ignored the Israeli warning and begun training Hizballah crews in Damascus in the use of the SA-2 missiles, the US official added: “A possible military attack by Hizbollah on Israel will be met with a damaging attack on Lebanon. Israel made the mistake of not striking Syria once before in 2006, but if Hizballah goes back to the offensive, Damascus will not be spared again."