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MIDDLE EAST: Fallon’s fall highlights debate over U.S. policy on Iran


Just days after a controversial article in Esquire magazine described Adm. William J. Fallon as the man standing in the way of a Bush administration war against Iran, he resigned his post, most likely under White House pressure, leaving as commander of Florida-based U.S. Central Command, or Centcom, and all U.S. military operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and Northeast Africa more than a year early.

FallonIran wasn’t the only point of contention between Fallon (right) and the rest of the Bush administration. As Los Angeles Times Pentagon reporters Julian E. Barnes and Peter Spiegel point out in Wednesday’s paper, Fallon seemed to oppose the U.S. strategy in Iraq, as well:

Supporters of the administration's troop buildup have criticized Fallon for pushing for an accelerated reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq. By doing so, they argued, Fallon undermined the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus. "He fought Petraeus every step of the way, creating unrealistic demands and extra work," said a former senior Pentagon official who has worked directly with both men. "And in so doing, he was not only undermining Petraeus, he was failing to support the president's policy."

But, it was Fallon's words on Iran policy that riled neoconservative White House and Beltway hawks. The Esquire article describes the conflict over Iran policy as a Manichaean fight between a Bush administration hellbent on confrontation and a Fallon equally determined to cool down tensions:

[W]hile Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon — and apparently Fallon alone — to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of conflict ... is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions." What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."

And as Washington reporter Gareth Porter points out in a piece for the online Asia Times, Fallon's opposition to Iran policy wasn't just rhetorical. It meant hardware wasn't positioned in key places on the geopolitical map at key times:

Even before assuming his new post at CENTCOM, Fallon expressed strong opposition in mid-February to a proposal for sending a third US aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, to overlap with two other carriers, according to knowledgeable sources. The addition of a third carrier was to be part of a broader strategy then being discussed at the Pentagon to intimidate Iran by making a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a military strike. The plan for a third carrier task force in the Gulf was dropped after Fallon made his views known.

Dempsey1Fallon will be replaced at least for now by his deputy, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey (right), who served twice in Iraq.

Neoconservatives celebrated Fallon's departure. Max Boot was the foreign policy pundit who labeled Fallon as "unimpressive" in January this year. In an opinion piece in Wednesday's L.A. Times, he argues that Fallon just didn't get it, with regard to Iran:

Fallon's very public assurances that America has no plans to use force against Iran embolden the mullahs to continue developing nuclear weapons and supporting terrorist groups that are killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.... By irresponsibly taking the option of force off the table, Fallon makes it more likely, not less, that there will ultimately be an armed confrontation with Iran.

But the story may not end here. Lawmakers are already calling for investigations into Fallon's departure.

And, of course, more likely than not, Fallon's got a tell-all book in the works, as with so many other ex-administration officials.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photos: From top, Centcom's area of operations stretches from Central Asia through the Middle East to the Horn of Africa; Fallon; Dempsey. Credit: Centcom website

Comments () | Archives (78)

War with Iran is a must, they can not have nukes. No one in the ME should have nukes.

I find it ironic that we are trying to stop a nation from making the exact same WMD's that we already have. In fact we are the only counrty that has used a WMD. Shouldn't the rest of the world be more scared of us? Since when did we gain the right to dictate and force Democracy on the world as a whole. Didn't we start this nation because we were being forced to follow someone else's beliefs and not our own? The U.S. has enough problems here that need to be addressed. We should unite as a counrty and be a role model to the rest of the world, not just a counrty that others fear will bomb them if they diagree with us.

Some problems are only made into problems when you consider it one.

well now i say the only question is what the United States will do about the Iranian nuclear problem i personally say that a 3rd war in the middle east will and probably be needed to end Ahmadinejad so called civilian nuclear program well i say YEAH RIGHT thats the oldest excuse in the book civilian use i mean come on why not just come out and say i'm building a bomb that way bush can say to the rest of the world hey you should have listened but you choose to believe the Iranians

The neocons have one of the worst track records in foreign affairs of any school of thought. (One hesitates at times to refer to their ideology as thought, but I digress.) They exaggerated the Soviet nuclear threat, thus paving the way for one of the largest rip-offs of the U.S. taxpayer in history: $120 billion for the ridiculous "Star Wars" program. (Consider all the old age pensions and health care this could have funded. When it comes to the life and death everyday security of people, the neocons are not only silent but usually hostile. War, militarization, death and "free markets" is the only language these amoralists know.)

Now we're bogged down in a "war" that's stealing U.S. taxpayer money at an astounding amount, saddling our collective future with enormous debt, preventing us from mitigating an possible recession or even depression, and creating the very problem the invasion was supposedly designed to avoid--terrorism.

I look forward to the day when the moniker "neocon" has the same connotation as "Nazi" or "Fascist." Actually, it's already happening. If the Democrats take over will we finally see prominent neocons put in front of a firing line for their war crimes? The faster the justice system can put these killers behind bars or in the ground, the further we'll be along the past of moral restoration.

Sir, when 4-star General Colin Powell left his office as Secretary of State everyone realised that the war in /against Iraq was an illegal war, now with more than 3,600 dead and more than 10,000 handicapped for the rest of their life.So, when Admiral William J. Fallon, one of the top military persons now handed in his resignation, we should be alarmed, because something must have gone wrong for a long time already with Bush's/Rice's Iran policy. It is absurd to ignore the political aspects and only trace a military solution nobody wants. We should not ignore Mr. Gates' comment some time ago: Iran is surrounded by states with nuclear power; in the East by Pakistan, in the North by Russia, in the South by the US (Gulf) and in the west by Israel-therefore they need a robust defense system. The situation could be improved when Israel would sign the NPT and have their nuclear sites in Dimona and other places inspected; unfortunately, they refuse both with the support of the Bush Admin.. One thing should be very clear, the people and the government of Iran have not forgotten the "Mossadeq-Case" of 1953.

libruls, LIEberals, far left pinkos; neo-conmen, CONservative, storm troopers. What do those very few of you who spout such utter shit hope to accomplish? Both parties are simply the WAR party: the bushes, clinton, reagan, carter, nixon (even with his promise to get us out of lbj's war), lbj, kennedy and truman are all testament to that one unifying war party that lurks underneath the surface of our empire masquerading as a republic

Blessed are the peacemakers
For they shall be called the children of God

Iran needs some bombing, so that her people wake up. I thank Bush & co. for serving humanity by pressing mullahs and finally removing them.

The freaks in Washington ought to be arrested. We lose another strong leader who wont sign on to the rhetoric and lies they spread. This is just like Shinsheski wo said it would take 350,000 men to secure Iraq. Ignorance and narrow mindedness is DANGEROUS.

"Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall see God". Where does that leave the rest of you war mongers who constantly, and out loud, beseech God Almighty to "bless America and our troops"? You need to re-read your holy book.

This is in response to jason, who posted earlier that it is us "lefties" causing weakness in the Iraq effort, us "poor excuses for parents" who's children have to enlist to get college paid for, and he goes on to advocate a pre-emptive attack on Iran to halt nuclear proliferation in a country accused of having the objective of "wiping Israel off the map"

Your post is a precise example of where we have gone completely off the deep end in the US. There are "lefty" millionaires and billionaires who have the money to send their kids to college, and beyond. Many of their sons and daughters enlisted to sacrifice in Afghanistan, and are STILL willing to sacrifice to fight extremism, in AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN AND SAUDI ARABIA, the true countries of terroristic dogma origin. So your argument falls apart and reveals the twisted murderous and out of control blood-lust for the "weak" and "poor" that have caused the Iraq debacle (tragedy) to occur in the first place.

Republicans have ruled this delusional purging/killing of the "poor" and "weak" but in their misguided and self-centered views what they have done is made them stronger, and more numerous. Greed and murder are not something the world rewards. Values, integrity, compassion, hard work and generous spirit is what the world rewards. The bullies in the playground are Republicans in the WH, and their murderous ilk who have not a clue how fast and far they have destroyed their country, and continue to barrel forward towards it's destruction. And why should they care about it? They will be long gone to South America, or Europe to escape the destruction. Well, us "lefties" are not going to let that happen. After 7 + official Republican rule in this country, and 30+ Republican unofficial rule in all lower levels of government to a lesser extent, a true patriot recognizes domestic enemies when they see them, and the "lefties" are not it.

Further, if not for the "lefties" you greedy and monstrous bastards would have developed Yellowstone park and tapped it for energy use. We stopped that. You all yelled "f$#%$ environmentalists" and worse...but when the science confirmed it lies on top of the largest super-volcano of the continental US you all got pretty silent on that one very quick. I'm still waiting for your apologies. Fat chance from a Republican monster.

No matter how excited you get over a WWIII the world will aim to stop it, and we "lefties" will stop you. Republicans are wrong, George Bush is wrong, his few remaining followers are wrong, and every American in the US has to do their patriotic duty and vote all of your representatives out before you "try to build on a volcano" and cause it to erupt, wrecking the entire world in the process. There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way, and you have done this all wrong.

US is not looking for full war with Iran. Just for it and israel to bomb it for a few days. This country is so beholden to Israel that it will do what ever israel asks. Most of these neocons and people like Chertof are dual citizens and care about 1 country Israel.
Wake up people, israel is not the 51st state. Its time for us to kick people's us for her own benefit.

I mourn the loss of this great man, of whom we have so few in this criminal administration.

A third war while we have two wasting wars in progress in near total ignorance of reality would be the final doom for America, and only for the benefit of the criminal Zionist enterprise that cares nothing for America.

Can you imagine $200 per barrel for oil, a whole world in chaos, an unending war against a whole world civilization, economic collapse, all for what? Iran has no WMD, and our own 16 intelligence agencies agree that they discontinued all nuclear weapons programs in 2003.

And dear Hillary Clinton voted for the Kyle-Lieberman agreement in the Senate. Opps, I did it again.

Vote Obama or we will face our doom more quickly than any can imagine.

"When I look at the region, I worry how long we can go on with the Israelis occupying the 2 million Palestineans. Its not just a local issue but flaring up into a large scale global issue that has to be resolved. The US has been the stumbling block by not playing the honest broker. Hear what Jimmy Carter has to say about it- the most reasonable voice in a sea of extremism."

You make an interesting point here. HOWEVER, keep in mind, that, while Israel maintained control of the borders of Gaza, along with Egypt, albeit, not very well, what has Israel gained by withdrawing from Gaza? Other than an increase in violence and an increase in missile attacks. How can people expecvt Israel to withdraw from more territory, when they unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, only to see an increase in terror infiltration, suicide bombing attempts, and random rockets fired into Israel.

Some people say that this is happening because Israel still controls the borders to Gaza, to which I say...Imagine what things would be like if Hamas was able to bring in even MORE weapons totally unchecked?

Peace can ONLY come when both sides are willing, OR when one side or both is forced into an enforceable peace. So far, neither of these has happened.

It's very unlikely that Israel will bomb Iran. The only strategy to that end is a sub lauched missile, and, while they likely have the technology to do so, I doubt Israel will send one of it's small, 3 sub fleet, into the Gulf area where they would be close enough to fire a missile. While the Jericho missiles have the range, they really don't have sufficient payload capacity to do serious damage, conventionally.

Reality check for everyone: this is very real and not a joking matter...and guess what, we just might be bombed...afterall, that's the neo-cons/fascists mission=depopulation. Take a good look thru history (especially for the "talking point" people that have to paraphrase Russ, O'Reilly and the your homework, get the facts, get the truth! Your children and your grandchildren will be the next to fight...that's right, there will be a draft and it won't matter what color. religion, rich or poor - our military is broken. We as a nation are broke and owned by China...what happens then the plug is pulled? The endgame is death. It's a very sad state of affairs and ever since 9/ one is willing to face the real truth...9/11 was intentional and as we as a nation slip into the abyss - everyone needs to get involved to take back out country!!!

"Get serious," the admiral says. "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them."

Administration wants to win hearts and minds of ME people .. calling them ants
counter productive.

Also, the Admiral, should reminded, that
always, when dust settels, the ants eat the Elephant

Since D already opened the can of worms regarding conspiratory theories, here is one - A false flag attack on the US, not by our own forces but by Israel to get the US to topple the Iranian leadership. They bomb a US target and claim it was done by Iran. They could not do it themselves without being put into greater danger due to their proximity to the regional powers. However, what about getting the US to do it? Bush is already gunning for Iran. The US congress would be hard pressed not to attack Iran if there were an actual attack on US soil.

When I look at the region, I worry how long we can go on with the Israelis occupying the 2 million Palestineans. Its not just a local issue but flaring up into a large scale global issue that has to be resolved. The US has been the stumbling block by not playing the honest broker. Hear what Jimmy Carter has to say about it- the most reasonable voice in a sea of extremism.

My sister lives now in Norway and we can almost not talk about the US anymore. Bush has left this country completely hated by all. Europeans think we're totally nuts. We spend more on defence than the next 20 countries put together and we don't provide health care for our people. Our prison population is 1 in 100 and many states spend more on incarceration than higher education.

On the war, our position went down with the "you're either with us or against us" speech. Then we gave the world Abu Gharib and Guantanamo. Now with over 700,000 civilians dead in Iraq, we're the outcast of the world. Right now, the main terrorist in the world is in the White House.

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