NEW YORK – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to change U.S. policy on Iran, aligning with European allies to offer "carrots" to Tehran to end its nuclear program instead of pressing for sanctions, says John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
His distress at watching Powell bend to the British, French and Germans was compounded when he saw Condoleezza Rice "wobble" on the Iran sanctions issue just a few months into her new job as secretary of state, Bolton says in his memoir released Tuesday.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Bolton said that specific "carrots" were discussed "at great length." They were "mostly economic access for Iran to enhanced technologies and things like that."
"The Europeans had a long list of them — trade and investment options, technology," Bolton said. "The list of carrots was always longer than the list of sticks."
Among his many criticisms in the book "Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad," Bolton says President George W. Bush's foreign policy has been left "in something like free fall." He calls for a change of culture in the "overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal" State Department.
Bolton reveals many of the private conversations and internal disputes during his six years with the Bush administration, initially as a senior State Department arms control official and then as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Democrats, with a bit of Republican help, blocked Bush's nomination of Bolton to be the top U.S. diplomat to the U.N. Bush then installed him in a temporary appointment in August 2005 but surrendered to congressional foes last December and gave up his fight to make Bolton the permanent ambassador.
The memoir recounts Bolton's Senate confirmation battle and the international crises he dealt with at the U.N. — from North Korea's nuclear test and Iran's nuclear ambitions to the conflict in Darfur and last year's war between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
In the AP interview, Bolton cited the failure of European efforts to halt Tehran's nuclear program as the reason for limited U.S. options now.
"I think because of the four-plus years of failed European diplomacy our options are very constrained," Bolton said. "I think it's down basically to two. One is regime change and the other as a last resort would be the targeted use of military force against Iran's nuclear weapons program."
In his book, Bolton accuses U.S. and European diplomats of seeking compromise instead of sticking to the tough positions that he and Bush advocated.
In the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections, with Bush running for a second term against Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the administration was pushing for sanctions against Tehran to halt its nuclear activities, while European allies were pushing for diplomacy, Bolton says.
He accuses Powell of playing a primary role in offering "carrots" to Tehran to halt its nuclear activities, saying this was later confirmed by a cable and a letter from a Canadian foreign affairs official.
He calls the three weeks after Powell's incentives offer to Tehran the hardest of his tenure in the first Bush administration.
"Powell had violated our long-standing Iran policy," Bolton writes. He "colluded" with Britain, France and Germany against U.S. policy and came out "nearly endorsing Kerry's Iran position only weeks before our election."
Powell was traveling and unreachable for comment.
Bolton also expressed disappointment at Rice's willingness to follow Powell's policies on Iran when she publicly endorsed the Europeans' negotiating efforts, in exchange for a "commitment" from them to go to the U.N. Security Council if those efforts failed. Bolton says the British, French and Germans assured Powell in 2003 that they would do the same.
Juan Cole, a Middle East history professor at the University of Michigan, expressed dismay at Bolton's claim, saying a secretary of state always has to have leeway in a diplomatic negotiations.
"Powell considered options that Bolton considered off the table," Cole said. "Bolton was an underling."
Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Bolton was "as guilty" as anyone else in the Bush administration of making agreements and breaking them.
"The president didn't force unity among his advisers and there were often people who went off and did their own thing," Alterman said.
Bolton is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.