There's a lot of talk these days about a possible confrontation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States. Leaving aside the admittedly big question of nuclear weapons for a moment, it's pretty easy to see the reasons for concern.
The country is ever more dominated by conservatives and advocates of political religion. There was a time in the 1990s when the country seemed to be moving in a more liberal direction, but those days are long past. Conservatives and religious movements have spent the last few years consolidating their control over the major political institutions - the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judiciary, even the media. Indeed, in the most recent elections, the conservatives routed their liberal counterparts. These conservatives and their religious base express open contempt for liberals and their values. Pretty much the only remaining opposition seems to be among university students and among some liberal newspapers, but their limited power doesn't really threaten the ruling coalition. What's more, the country has recently been very active inside of Iraq, which threatens important national security interests. Leading conservative figures, including some known for very close ties to senior government leaders, have openly declared their hostility and have even spoken about the need for military action. Even relatively moderate foreign policy officials have been sounding pretty hawkish lately.
You can see why the Iranians might be worried about a country like the United States these days.
Not to mention Americans.
(Note to the irony-impaired: I am not in fact claiming that the United States is identical to the Islamic Republic of Iran; nor am I claiming that the Christianist movement in the United States is identical to the Islamist rulers of Iran. Just pointing out some amusing similarities, is all, and wondering how supporters of the Bush administration can, with a straight face, make certain kinds of criticisms of the Iranian system. This preventive strike footnote provided as a public service to save bandwidth in the comments section).