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President Trump addresses the 73rd UN General Assembly on September 25, 2018, in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Among the many targets of the Trump administration’s ire this week at the UN, Iran stood out. “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Trump told the General Assembly on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he reiterated, “a regime of this track record must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon.”

The big picture: The Trump administration is angry that most of the world — including key allies Britain, France and Germany — have rejected its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and are attempting to circumvent sanctions on Iran. But overemphasizing the challenge Iran poses only further undercuts U.S. credibility and makes it easier for other nations, such as China, to actively oppose U.S. policy.

The hawkish rhetoric within the administration — from the president to National Security Advisor John Bolton, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook — bears a strong resemblance to President George W. Bush’s before the 2003 Iraq invasion. In his 2002 "Axis of Evil" speech, Bush said that the U.S. “will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.”

Of course, Iraq turned out to have no such weapons, and devolved into a quagmire from which the U.S. has yet to extricate itself and from which a stable democracy has yet to emerge. Iran, meanwhile, has no nuclear weapons either, and still hews to a deal that curbs its ability to produce such weapons for at least a decade.

It is to justify a unilateral withdrawal from this accord that the Trump administration has escalated the information war against Iran and re-imposed punishing sanctions. On Tuesday, the State Department released a 48-page screed entitled “Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities.” The first product of Hook’s “Iran Action Group,” the document sifts through 40 years of Iranian history to paint the bleakest portrait possible, at the expense of context and nuance.

The bottom line: Iran does indeed present challenges. But to accuse Iran, as Pompeo did, of responsibility for a “global torrent of destructive activity,” or to threaten Tehran, as Bolton did, with “hell to pay if you cross us,” is to invite a war that could eclipse Iraq in its destructive consequences for the region and beyond.

Barbara Slavin directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Go deeper

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has be charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

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Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.