Iran willing to 'expend every Arab life' in efforts to destroy Israel, former US security adviser says

Iran is willing to "expend every Arab life" in its efforts to end Western influence in the Middle East and destroy Israel, a former US national security adviser has said.

HR McMaster, who held the position between 2017 and 2018 during the Trump presidency, told Sky News that there is still a risk of escalation between Iran and Israel after the two nations carried out attacks on each other in April.

Iran said its attack on Saturday 13 April was a retaliation after two of its generals were killed in a strike in Syria's capital, Damascus, which Tehran blames on Israel.

Israel responded to the Iranian attack by carrying out a strike on Isfahan - home to both a military base and nuclear site in Iran.

Asked whether there could be further escalation between the two regional rivals, Mr McMaster said: "Iran is pursuing a strategy in which they hope we continue to pretend like we don't understand what the return address is for all this violence.

"And in a horrible, cynical way, Iran is willing to expend every Arab life, if necessary, to accomplish its objectives of pushing the United States, the United Kingdom and our allies out of the region as the first step in establishing hegemonic power in the region and destroying Israel.

"That's really what they want to do. And I think the longer that we act as if we don't know what the return address is, Iran is going to continue to escalate these horrible actions to create horrible human suffering not only on the part of the Israelis, but on the part of the Palestinians too."

Asked whether the West could be drawn into leading a response to any future Iranian aggression in the region, Mr McMaster said: "Absolutely, I think it's coming because Iran seems to be emboldened, even though they have all sorts of internal dissent happening now... They seem to be emboldened internationally... I think we need to tell the Iranians we're going to begin to impose severe costs on you.

"And these don't have to be military right away.

"I think there's tonnes of room to enforce the sanctions that are already on the books, the sanctions that the Biden administration chose not to enforce."

Mr McMaster also said that the reduction in capacity of the UK's armed forces "broke my heart" as military sources and Cold War veterans warned Britain is increasingly vulnerable to the threat of missiles and drones after decades of cost-saving cuts.

He added that it would be "difficult for the UK to sustain operations" for "ample duration to fight and win" in a future conflict.

In an apparent reference to some NATO countries not meeting their defence spending targets, Mr McCaster continued: "I think we have to realise that we have been over-optimistic for too long about the geostrategic conditions and the need to demonstrate strength to prevent further conflict."

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Asked whether the recent $61bn military aid package for Ukraine will have an impact on the war there, Mr McMaster said: "It's a game-changer... I hope it's not too late...

"Ukraine are fighting as best they can with what they've got. We've got to get them the ammunition now."

He added that the "halting" and "inconsistent" manner in which the US has provided aid has denied Ukraine the ability to protect its people and stop the Russian offensive.