This perception is generated by suspicions of Iran’s intentions for its nuclear program—
heightened by a November 8, 2011, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report—as well
as by Iran’s support for militant groups in the Middle East and in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S.
officials also accuse Iran of helping Syria’s leadership try to defeat a growing popular opposition
movement, and of taking advantage of Shiite majority unrest against the Sunni-led, pro-U.S.
government of Bahrain. Tensions have been particularly elevated since Iran’s late December 2011
threat to try to choke off much of the world’s oil supplies by attempting to close the Strait of
Hormuz—a reaction to the imposition of significant sanctions against Iran’s vital exports of oil.