McMaster: Time is now t­o act against Iran’s proxies

Netanyahu to warn Munich Security Conference about Tehran’s growing military power.

US National Security Adviser HR McMaster focuses on chemical weapons, Iran and Syria at Munich security summit, February 17, 2018 (Reuters)
US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called Saturday on the international community to act against Iranian proxies in the Middle East.
“This network of proxies is becoming more and more capable as Iran [places] more and more capable weapons, more and more destructive weapons into these networks, so the time is now to act against Iran,” he said at the annual Munich Security Conference.
McMaster accused Tehran of escalating a campaign to increase its influence in the Middle East by building “Hezbollah-style” proxy armies in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere as it has done in Lebanon.
The goal is to weaken Arab governments and turn the proxy forces against those states if they pursue policies that run counter to Tehran’s interests, he said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to warn the high level gatherings, which includes heads of state and foreign and defense ministers, about the threat of Iran and its growing military power in Syria.
On Friday, Netanyahu met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the conference, and discussed the Iranian threat.
Israel will continue to act against Iran in Syria if Tehran persists in developing its military presence there, the prime minister said.
“Iran should not build its military bases there – we’ll act against it,” he said.
With regard to the Golan Heights, Netanyahu said that the strategic area Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War “will remain in the hands of Israel forever.”
Netanyahu has issued such warnings about Iran’s presence in Syria since the fall, but the issue has gained urgency since February 10, when an Iranian-made drone launched from Syria flew into Israel.
The Israel Air Force’s response against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria resulted in the downing of an F-16i fighter plane. The pilot and navigator ejected, landing in Israel.
At the conference, McMaster spoke against the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in April 2017.
“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical-weapons use is continuing. It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.
McMaster also railed against the 2015 nuclear accord signed by Iran and six other countries, saying investments made by German firms and others were helping to fund Iran’s missile program and its other activities in the Middle East.
Echoing US President Donald Trump’s view, McMaster said it was time to address “serious flaws in the Iran deal and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its development and proliferation of missiles.”
Trump has been pushing for changes to the 2015 nuclear agreement under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of many sanctions.
Iran insists it is implementing the nuclear agreement and has warned Washington of consequences if the accord is scrapped.
McMaster said those who invested in Iran were essentially funding the activities of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. He said Iran’s biggest trading partners were Russia and China, as well as Japan, South Korea and Germany.
“As a matter of international security and moral conscience we must stop doing business with [Revolutionary Guard Corps]-affiliated interests, encourage the development of a true commercial sector in Iran and pressure the regime to respect the rights of its people,” McMaster said.
Netanyahu has also called on the international community to fix the flaws in the deal, which he had always opposed and which he battled to persuade the Obama administration not to sign.
On March 5, Netanyahu is slated to meet with Trump at the White House, two US officials said on Friday. It will be his second White House visit and their fourth face-to-face meeting.
“The president has a great relationship with the prime minister and looks forward to meeting with him,” a White House official said.
Reuters contributed to this report.