Bolton Book Cites Effort to Halt Powell's Iran Initiative

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007

On the eve of the 2004 presidential elections, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell secretly attempted to shift U.S. policy on Iran by telling key allies he wanted to offer "carrots" to the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear ambitions, former U.N. ambassador John R. Bolton writes in his soon-to-be-published memoir.

Bolton, then undersecretary of state, says that he worked hard to thwart Powell's plans -- only to discover, to his dismay, that Powell's replacement, Condoleezza Rice, would pursue the same approach in President Bush's second term.

Bolton's book, "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad," will be published next month by Threshold Editions. It provides a detailed look at key administration policy battles during the first six years of the Bush administration.

Bolton reveals many private conversations and internal debates as the administration struggled to deal with such issues as the North Korean and Iranian nuclear threats, the tragedy in Sudan's Darfur region, the Israeli-Hezbollah war and deteriorating relations with Russia.

Bolton's recounting of these episodes adds to the growing body of insider accounts about the inner workings of the Bush administration, though this is one of the first by a leading conservative figure. It will likely cause angst at the State Department and in some foreign capitals, including London, because of Bolton's depiction of the diplomatic exchanges. In typically pugnacious style, Bolton lashes out at his opponents in the administration and overseas, repeatedly referring to European Union diplomats as "EUroids" and foes in State's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Bureau as "EAPeasers."

Bolton in particular criticizes Rice and one of her top aides, Undersecretary R. Nicholas Burns, for what he considers poor diplomacy. He recounts his anger -- and that of other administration conservatives -- at many of her decisions, especially her handling of North Korea, Iran and the Israeli war, arguing that Rice was too willing to make unnecessary concessions in pursuit of ineffectual achievements.

During a meeting on Hamas's participation in Palestinian elections at the United Nations, for instance, Bolton says he watched Rice make a series of "unforced errors" because she was too eager to be accommodating.

Though Bolton often clashed with Powell, he expresses respect for Powell's skill at bureaucratic infighting. Bolton does not directly criticize the president, but he concludes: "Administration foreign policy [is] in something of a free fall."

After a bitter fight, the Senate never confirmed Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador, and he stepped down in December when his recess appointment expired. He is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Bolton attributes Powell's 2004 gambit on Iran to what he caustically calls the "George C. Marshall Legacy Project," which he said involved "distancing Powell from Bush." Bolton, as the administration's chief arms control official, was critical of efforts by Britain, France and Germany (the "EU-3") to forge a deal with Iran.

He believed that Tehran used the talks only to build up its nuclear capability. The administration was also openly skeptical, so he says he was shocked to learn that Powell, at a Sept. 22, 2004, dinner with "Group of Eight" foreign ministers, agreed that Iran should be given a package of "carrots."

Bolton says he got a vague response from Powell when he asked about it, but he soon saw a European reporting cable on the meal and a Canadian letter that confirmed Powell's proposal. In what Bolton described as the most difficult three weeks of his tenure in the administration, he says he used every possible bureaucratic and diplomatic maneuver to kill Powell's plan.

"Powell had violated our long-standing Iran policy, colluded with the EU-3 against it and come out nearly endorsing [Sen. John F.] Kerry's position only weeks before our election," Bolton writes. "Along with others, I had foiled Powell's legacy gambit. I knew it, and he knew I knew it."

But then to Bolton's shock, Rice adopted the same approach when she became secretary. He says he began thinking of leaving the administration when Rice gave him the news over dinner in 2006. A depressed Bolton pointedly ordered carrot soup with the meal.

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