Top US Middle East commander Adm. William Fallon resigns, denies policy differences with White House
Defense secretary Robert Gates told reporters Tuesday, March 11, that the chief of central command had quit after an Esquire magazine article portrayed him as opposed to White House policy on Iran – in particular, against war on Iran over its suspect nuclear program.
Gates said it was “ridiculous” to speculate that Fallon’s departure from his post means the US is preparing a military strike against Iran.
The Esquire article described him as “in hot water again” with the White House for telling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Iran would not be attacked. Fallon reportedly said a war with Iran would not happen on “my watch.”
debkafile‘s military sources add some background. Adm. Fallon was at loggerheads with the president and Gates over many of the US Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus’ evaluations of the military situation in Iraq, which they backed. He considered Petraeus had overstated American military successes in the Iraq war and warned the situation there was volatile and could change rapidly.
His sudden departure comes at a particularly fraught moment for US positions in the areas of his command since 2007 – US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror and and critical developments in Pakistan and Lebanon to which he gave his personal attention.
In his statement, Fallon said: Although I don’t believe there have been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area, the perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively service America’s interests there.”
In an interview last week with the Washington Post, Fallon dismissed the Esquire article as “poison pen stuff” and “really disrespectful and ugly.”
Gates said CENTCOM deputy commander, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, will serve as acting commander until the Senate confirms Fallon’s successor.