Depending where you are in Washington, or frankly some days, depending on what office you are in the White House you will either hear the drumbeats of war or the opening salvo of yet another attempt by Donald Trump to reach out diplomatically to one of the US's longtime rivals. This time, Iran.
What has triggered a lot of the concern is the startling increase in violence and military activity in the region. The US sending a naval flotilla to the Iranian coast. Iran itself, according to US intelligence at least, putting short-term missiles on some of its own naval ships in the Gulf, and signs that Iranian proxies have started attacking Saudi assets, including tankers in the Gulf and Saudi airports, using drones.
Now the question, though, is what is in Donald Trump's mind? Some days he's tweeting that he's ready to officially erase Iran from the map. On other days he's reaching out and saying he wants to talk with Iran's leaders, much like he did with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator.
The man who's been driving policy, though, is actually John Bolton, Donald Trump's new national security adviser, who's been a lifelong enemy of the Iranian regime and been trying to back regime change in Iran basically for 20 years now, since he worked for the Bush administration. He has long advocated that regime change in Iran is a necessary precondition to restarting diplomatic relations between the US and Iran.
And he's been active in doing this ever since he joined the Trump administration last year. Now thus far Donald Trump has talked him down. Trump has publicly admonished him not to push towards war. He again has said publicly that he'd like to talk with the Iranians.
But it is clearly a Bolton initiative to push the administration down this path, and even joined by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, who's also an Iran hardliner. Just two weeks ago he cancelled a meeting with Angela Merkel in Germany to fly to Iraq to warn the Iraqis that US troops were under threat from Iranian movements in the region. Again, publicly admonishing the Iranians not to attack US assets and threatening to retaliate if they did.
The question is, once again, what is in Donald Trump's mind? And we'll be following this very closely on FT.com. Please follow our coverage there.