The United States is part of a regional coalition enforcing a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. Before the fighting began Washington dispatched its top diplomats to protect regional interests amid political unrest in Bahrain, Egypt and elsewhere.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during talks last week with Saudi officials that Riyadh didn't seem particularly concerned by Iranian action in the region. Washington, however, had information suggesting Tehran was meddling in the affairs of Bahrain.
"We already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation in Bahrain," he said.
Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the Iranian military, was quoted in the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying pressure from "the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime (Israel) cannot destroy the Islamic awakening."
He singled out Saudi Arabia's decision to send troops to Bahrain as a major diplomatic faux pas.
"Saudi Arabia has made the biggest mistake," he said. "Although Riyadh has its own motivations, its military intervention in Bahrain is at U.S. request."
Bahrain's ruling Sunni minority is struggling to control rising pressure from the country's Shiite majority.