“I’ve described Iran in the past, and I think the description still fits, the leadership in Iran has developed into a paper tiger with steel claws,” he told CNBC Tuesday.
“The ‘steel claws’ are the militias that they have established throughout the Middle East, whether it’s Hezbollah (in Lebanon) or the Houthis (in Yemen) or the al-Abbas (a Shia militant group in Syria) or the various militias operating in Iraq and Syria whose main purpose is to further Iran’s influence and its domination of the areas in the Middle East,” he said, speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Milken Institute summit in Abu Dhabi.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are rival religious and political powers in the Middle East. Relations between the Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran have hit rock-bottom in recent years with civil wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq seen as proxy battlegrounds between the two countries. Iranian support for the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon and even, sporadically, to the Taliban in Afghanistan, in the form of weaponry and military training, has also made Iran a pariah on the global stage.
A sluggish economy, made worse by re-imposed U.S. sanctions, and rising food prices have also fueled civil unrest and demonstrations against the government. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month that Iran was facing its toughest economic situation “in 40 years.” The International Monetary Fund has predicted the country’s growth contracted by 1.5 percent in 2018 and will slump by 3.6 percent in 2019.
Al-Faisal likened Iran to a “paper tiger” because he said poverty and protest were rising in the country with a “dysfunctional” government. He said he didn’t know whether there would be regime change in Iran but hoped U.S. sanctions would change the leadership’s conduct.
Read more: CNBC
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