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Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

At the direction of national security adviser John Bolton, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan last week presented top White House national security officials with a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran "attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons," the New York Times reports.

Details: The plan was reportedly presented during a meeting about the Trump administration's broader Iran policy, attended — among others — by Bolton, CIA director Gina Haspel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. It's unclear if President Trump has been briefed on the details of the plan, which did not call for a land invasion of Iran, but requested a similar number of troops involved the U.S.' 2003 invasion of Iraq, per the Times.

The big picture: Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been warning of an unspecified "escalating threat" from Iran in recent weeks, after receiving intelligence from Israel about a possible Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the region. Trump told reporters today that he’d been “hearing little stories about Iran,” adding: “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly.”

  • Saudi Arabia on Monday announced that two Saudi tankers were damaged by an "act of sabotage" over the weekend in the Gulf, without identifying any suspects. Iran’s foreign ministry distanced itself, calling the incident “worrisome” and “regretful."
  • Later on Monday, AP and other media outlets cited an anonymous U.S. official as saying an "initial assessment is that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies" were responsible.

Go deeper

9 mins ago - Health

Axios Harris Poll 100: Pfizer, Moderna reputations soar post-vaccine

Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

America's affections have shifted away from the companies that helped us manage pandemic life and toward the vaccine manufacturers that are helping to end it.

Driving the news: Moderna and Pfizer shot up the ranks this year in the Axios/Harris 100, our annual survey of corporate reputations. Moderna is Americans' third-favorite company this year, and Pfizer came in at seventh — up from No. 61 a year ago.

Big Tech's reputation takes a pandemic plunge

Expand chart
Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans have fallen further out of love with Big Tech, the latest Axios/Harris 100 brand reputation poll shows.

Why it matters: Even though Americans were hyper-connected to their devices throughout the pandemic, their relationship with many of the world's biggest tech firms has continued on a downward trend, suggesting that people see their products as necessary evils.

There's an ETF for everything, except bitcoin

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Happiness. Weed. Robots. Water. Whatever the theme, there's probably an ETF promoting a basket of stocks related to it.

Why it matters: Thematic ETFs are an investment mania side effect. There's newfound retail investor interest in narrow exposure to hot corners of the stock market. More are launching to meet the moment.