Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, I asked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif whether he believes that Iran's enemy, the state of Israel, will exist for a long time to come.

What he's saying: "We believe the policies that are being pursued [by Israel] are not sustainable," Zarif told me and a small group of reporters who met with him at the Iranian Mission in New York.

Later in the conversation, a reporter asked Zarif whether he could acknowledge any mistakes Iran has made. He said no government would answer that question, and instead he described his ideal future for the region.

  • Zarif described an idyllic regional neighborhood, one that "doesn't have a dominant power." It would be peaceful, with guaranteed security for all nations, including the Gulf States and Iraq.

"What about Israel?" I asked. Does it have a place in his vision of the region?

  • "I decide not to" include Israel in this region, he replied.
  • Asked whether he might entertain Israel's right to exist in the context of a broader "Middle East" region, he replied that the concept of a region "is a construct. ... The region I am talking about is the region in which I live."

Why this matters: Zarif’s comments came after the UN General Assembly exposed a growing split between America and Europe over the question of Iran.

  • At the UNGA, the Europeans doubled down on their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal by announcing they would set up a special payment channel to let European companies keep dealing with Iran while ducking U.S. sanctions.
  • Meanwhile, American and Israeli leaders spent the week torching Iran — from John Bolton warning Iran "we will come after you" to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling the UN that his intelligence agents had found a "secret atomic warehouse" in downtown Tehran.

Zarif said he was weaving together a global coalition to resist U.S. sanctions and secure a market for Iranian oil, batting off questions about Hezbollah and human rights in Iran. He also said Netanyahu’s “secret atomic warehouse” was actually a laundromat for Persian rugs.

  • He wouldn't let U.S. journalists verify that claim, he said, as a matter of sovereignty.
  • Would he invite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to do the same? Zarif said the IAEA hadn't asked to inspect that factory and they wouldn't because they "know better."

What's next? Zarif said Iran could pull out of the nuclear deal if the Europeans don’t fulfill their commitments. And he didn't close the door to a meeting, one day, with Trump. But he didn't seem bullish about that prospect, adding that the Iranians had not requested a meeting with him and don't consider him reliable.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign 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 revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

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.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”