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National security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

National security adviser John Bolton's saber-rattling promise on Sunday that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force” was the latest sign of mounting White House frustration with Iran.

Why it matters: If U.S. pressure drives Iran to leave the nuclear deal — or diminish commitments, as President Hassan Rouhani indicated Wednesday — its increased isolation could have fallout effects the Trump administration has not publicly reckoned with. The likelihood of military conflict between Iran and its neighbors could grow, and the dangerous aspects of its nuclear program could be restarted.

Background: In the year since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal, it has enacted severe sanctions that have taken a major bite out of Iran's economy, even as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the American intelligence community have found Iran to be holding up its side of the bargain.

Between the lines: The White House appears to believe that the U.S. will come out ahead whether Iran honors the nuclear deal or withdraws from it. This rose-colored policy logic recalls the statements that preceded the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was neither as straightforward nor as beneficial as promised.

  • The unraveling of the deal would eliminate the last guardrail preventing increased conflict and renewed nuclear insecurity — with no current diplomatic table to which Iran could return, despite the administration’s claims to want a better deal.

The bottom line: A fuller public discussion of U.S. goals, and the risks of pursuing them, could help inform Iran policy before tensions reach a breaking point.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
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NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.