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Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis and President Trump last year. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis had "deep concerns" about a request late last year from national security adviser John Bolton for options to attack inside Iran, according to a source close to Mattis.

The big picture: "There were deep concerns about any efforts to escalate a conflict with Iran," the source told me. As the Wall Street Journal first reported, Bolton's request came "after militants fired three mortars into Baghdad's sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy, on a warm night in early September. The shells — launched by a group aligned with Iran — landed in an open lot and harmed no one."

Behind the scenes: Mattis thought that attacking inside Iran risked escalating a conflict with an Iranian proxy into war with a nation state — the Iranian regime. The source told me that despite Mattis' concerns, the Pentagon provided the White House with options to counterattack against Iran.

  • In response to questions for this article, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said: "The NSC coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats. We continue to review the status of our personnel following attempted attacks on our embassy in Baghdad and our Basra consulate and will consider the full range of options to preserve their safety and our interests."
  • And Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning responded: "The Department of Defense is a planning organization and provides options to the president for decision. Discussions between the secretary of defense and the president are privileged."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.

6 mins ago - World

State Dept. fears Chinese threats to labor auditors

A space for media is designated by Chinese authorities near a mosque in the Xinjiang region of China. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department is concerned organizations performing supply-chain audits in China are coming under pressure from Chinese authorities.

Why it matters: U.S. law prohibits importing products made through forced labor, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to verify whether products from China are tainted.

By the numbers: States with most guns, homicides

Data: USA Facts, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

President Biden unveiled his anti-crime plan Wednesday following a surge in violent crime across the country — particularly in big cities.

Why it matters: Part of the administration's plan involves cracking down on gun dealers. The U.S. has witnessed mass shootings on a weekly basis this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.