Jones was not talking out of the top of his head, but on the strength of solid US intelligence gathered over months on detailed war plans Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas have drawn up to send five Hizballah brigades sweeping across the border to seize five sectors of Galilee, while also organizing a massive Israeli-Arab uprising against the Jewish state.
Hamas would open a second front in the south and in the east. Syria is expected to step in at some stage.
This plan with attached special map was first published exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 430 on Jan. 22, 2010. Key excerpts appear here.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards instructors at especially established training 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).
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.
Iranian war planners want Hizballah to control the three Israeli-Arab locations for two advantages:
One: As 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 Galilee Panhandle.
5th Battalion: Hizballah's Strategic Reserve.
Rocket attacks from Lebanon will focus on disabling Israel's strategic military sites, such as air force bases, missile bases, its nuclear facilities and naval bases. Targeting Israeli population centers is a lower Iranian priority.
Syria's initial involvement will be limited to cover by artillery or air for Hizballah operations. But if the fighting escalates or drags on, Hizballah will invite Syrian back-up forces to go into Lebanon; Damascus will open Front No. 4 against Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
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.
In recent weeks, both Hizballah and its Syrian allies have mobilized their forces while telling the Arab world that the Jewish state is about to attack Lebanon.
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.