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An International Al-Quds Day protest in Tehran last month. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Israel and the United States formed a joint working group a few months ago that is focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and pressure the country's government.

Why it matters: The Obama administration almost completely refused to discuss any potential efforts for stirring unrest or encouraging protest inside Iran with Israel due to its efforts to complete the Iran nuclear deal. The joint team is a major example of the Trump administration's policy shift in the region.

What we're hearing: The Israeli officials told me that both the domestic situation in Iran and the work of the joint team were discussed during a meeting between national security adviser John Bolton and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat and his American counterpart John Bolton at the White House several weeks ago. Both Bolton and Ben-Shabbat think that raising internal pressure on the Iranian regime might have a positive influence on Iranian regional behavior.

"Nobody is seriously thinking about regime change, but this team is trying to see if we can use the internal weaknesses of the Iranian regime in order to create more pressure that will contribute to changing Iranian behavior."
— An Israeli official
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to comment. A spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House said: "We don’t confirm or provide details of internal deliberations."

The big picture: In the last few weeks, both Israel and the U.S. started using social media to convey anti-regime messages to the Iranian people. And Netanyahu has recently posted four different videos on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter — translated to Farsi — in which he speaks to the Iranian people and encourages them to protest against the regime.

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote a series of tweets supporting the protesters in Iran, criticizing mass arrests of protesters by the Iranian regime and highlighting the regime's growing funding of the Revolutionary Guards Corps as controversy build over Iran's domestic spending.

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 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  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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  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.”