Clashing Views on Iran Reflect a New Balance of Power in the Cabinet

On May 5, the State Department’s top negotiator, Brian H. Hook, spoke one more time to his British, French and German counterparts. But they failed to break the deadlock on the sunset provisions, which led to Mr. Pompeo’s downbeat message to Mr. Johnson two days later.

For critics like Mr. Dubowitz, who favored fixing the deal rather than nixing it, the failure to close the final gaps suggests that Mr. Trump was never serious about finding a remedy — that he was merely going through the motions before killing it.

Representatives of Mr. Bolton, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mattis played down any suggestion of divisions. Mr. Bolton, a National Security Council spokesman said, consulted widely with his colleagues and European allies on Iran. Mr. Mattis, a Pentagon spokeswoman said, gave his confidential advice to the president and did not feel cut out of the debate.

State Department officials said Mr. Pompeo concurred that the deliberations were open and thorough. However polite his conversations with the Europeans, they said, he did not seek an extension to save the deal, since the outcome was clear last week.

With the Iran deal in the rearview mirror, the next major test for Mr. Trump’s team will be his negotiation with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Until now, Mr. Pompeo has taken the lead in preparing for that meeting, relying heavily on his former staff at the C.I.A. and making little use of the State Department or the National Security Council.

But Mr. Bolton has lost no time expressing his views about how the negotiation should be handled — he cited Libya’s voluntary surrender of its nuclear program in 2003 as a precedent — and why pulling out of the Iran deal will strengthen, rather than weaken, Mr. Trump’s hand.

“When you’re serious about eliminating the threat of nuclear proliferation, you have to address the aspects that permit an aspiring nuclear weapons state to get there,” Mr. Bolton said. “The Iran deal did not do that. A deal that we hope to reach — the president is optimistic we can reach with North Korea — will address all those issues.”