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

Robert Mueller speaks out on Roger Stone commutation

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday July 24, 2019. Photo: The Washington Post / Contributor

Former special counsel Robert Mueller responded to claims from President Trump and his allies that Roger Stone was a "victim" in the Justice Department's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, writing in a Washington Post op-ed published Saturday: "He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

Why it matters: The rare public comments by Mueller come on the heels of President Trump's move to commute the sentence of his longtime associate, who was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for crimes stemming from the Russia investigation. The controversial decision brought an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars.

Trump dons face mask during Walter Reed visit

Trump wearing a face mask in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on July 11. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump wore a face mask during his Saturday visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to AP.

Why it matters: This is the first known occasion the president has appeared publicly with a facial covering as recommended by health officials since the coronavirus pandemic began, AP writes.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 12,607,510 — Total deaths: 562,338 — Total recoveries — 6,948,863Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 3,228,884 — Total deaths: 134,600 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,919,421Map.
  3. Public health: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: "Please wear a mask to save lives" Fauci hasn't briefed Trump on the coronavirus pandemic in at least two months — We're losing the war on the coronavirus.
  4. Food: How the coronavirus pandemic boosted alternative meat.
  5. Sports: Charge of "money grab" by college football.
  6. World: India reimposes lockdowns as coronavirus cases soar.