Iran, never one to boast about its thoughtful behind-the-scenes aid, has been secretly helping Syrian president Bashar al-Assad suppress pro-democracy demonstrations. U.S. officials say Tehran has been both supplying gear and helping to block and monitor protesters’ Internet and cell-phone usage. Intercepted communications show that Tehran may also be looking into ways to help Shiite hardliners in Bahrain and Yemen destabilize longtime U.S. allies in those countries as well. Officials who have seen those intelligence-agency reports told The Wall Street Journal that Iran’s actions could hurt the interest of both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and intensify already-inflamed sectarian tension across the Middle East.
The White House is concerned that sustained turmoil might increase Iran’s influence at a time when its nuclear ambitions are a concern to the U.S. and its allies. Thus far, an administration official told the Journal, Iran’s “aspirations far outpace their ability to project their influence into these places.” Not that that should stop anyone from getting a head start on those drumbeats to war.