Iran is funding militias throughout the Middle East while turning its own people into paupers, Saudi Arabian Prince Turki Al-Faisal told CNBC Tuesday.

"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.

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