"The issue of Iran and its nuclear program has emerged as a top priority for the Obama Administration. A sense of potential crisis in late 2011 and early 2012 was generated by growing suspicions in the international community that Iran's nuclear program is not for purely peaceful purposes, and the determination of the government of Israel, in particular, that it might take unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if its progress is not soon halted. […] The United States has long seen a threat to U.S. interests posed by Iran's support for militant groups in the Middle East and in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. officials 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. However, to date, these issues have not generated the same sense of crisis that the nuclear issue has. […] Some in the 112th Congress, aside from supporting additional economic sanctions against Iran, assert that the United States should provide additional political support to the democracy movement in Iran, despite the relative quiescence of the opposition since early 2010. The Administration argues that it has supported the opposition through civil society and other programs, and by using recent authorities to sanction Iranian officials who suppress human rights in Iran and help Syria repress human rights."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32048