Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster speaks at the Munich Security Conference about combating the expanding military influence of Iran.

MUNICH — National Security Advisor H.R.McMaster made an appeal to NATO members and allies at the Munich Security Conference to look hard at who they’re doing business with overseas and cut off funding that indirectly funds Hezbollah and other proxy militias that weaken Middle East nations to bolster Iranian influence.

The Iranian regime continues to get support from commercial entities, affiliated with the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – “including Mahan Air, a company that lands right here in Munich airport,” said McMaster, referring to a report released at the end of 2017 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran that stated the Iran’s largest commercial airline in fact works as a tool for Iran’s expansionist policies.

In October 2017, President Donald Trump called for tougher sanctions against the IRGC, and the Treasury Department announced it was designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity under a White House Executive Order, for support of a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the time said the IRGC has played “a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror,” urging the private sector to recognize that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy.

“What Iran is actually doing is applying the Hezbollah model to the greater Middle East,” McMaster said. “They want the Arab world perpetually weak, and [they want] weak governments in power that are dependent on Iran for support, while they grow terrorist organizations, militias, illegal arms groups outside that government’s control that can turn against government if that government acts against Iranian interests.”

Beyond Syria, this approach is happening in Iraq, where IRGC has grown Popular Mobilization Forces, as well as in Yemen. That network of proxies becomes and more capable as Iran seeds to them more destructive weapons, McMaster said, nd that is funded through commercial means.

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“When you invest in Iran, you’re investing in the IRGC. You might as well cut the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a check and say, ‘please use this to commit more murder across the Middle East,’” McMaster said. “And when we look at the biggest trading partners with Iran, we of course see Russia, we see China. But we also see Japan, South Korea and Germany. It’s time to focus business intelligence efforts to figure out who we are really doing business with, and cut off funding.”

Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.

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