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Trump and Shanahan (L) in a meeting witht he top U.S. military brass. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other top officials on Wednesday that he does not want his "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran to escalate to war, the NY Times reports.

Between the lines: National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been sounding the alarm about impending attacks from Iran and warning of "unrelenting force" if necessary. Trump has long been wary of a new military engagement in the Middle East, and this is the clearest signal yet that the current standoff with Iran is no exception.

The big picture: Trump's sanction campaign appears likely to cripple the Iranian economy, and his administration has insisted it won't ease up until the Iranian regime fundamentally changes its behavior. There's no sign that's about to happen.

  • With Bolton and Pompeo amplifying their rhetoric and the U.S. dispatching additional military hardware to the region, fears of a miscalculation that leads to war have become acute, particularly among European allies.
  • The Times reports that the recent flurry of threats and activity from the administration was due to intelligence showing Iran placed missiles on boats in the Gulf and could potentially strike U.S. troops or allied interests.
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said Tuesday that "we don't seek a war, and they don't either." He added that Tehran is not interested in negotiations and insisted, “our resoluteness is more unwavering than theirs.”

Go deeper: How we got here.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.

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