Mideast military chief resigns after magazine article
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that Admiral William Fallon, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, is resigning.
Gates said Fallon had asked Gates for permission to retire and that Gates agreed.
Fallon was the subject of an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed him as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy. It described Fallon as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
In one passage, the magazine said:
So while 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."
Gates described as "ridiculous" any notion that Fallon's departure signals the United States is planning to go to war with Iran. And he said "there is a misperception" that Fallon disagrees with the administration's approach to Iran.
"I don't think there were differences at all," Gates added.
Fallon told the Washington Post that the Esquire article was "poison pen stuff" that is "really disrespectful and ugly." He didn't note any specific objections, though.
Retiring after a 41-year Navy career, Fallon took the Central Command post on March 16, 2007, succeeding Army Gen. John Abizaid, who retired. Fallon previously served as commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
Gates said that until a permanent replacement is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Fallon's place will be taken by his top deputy, Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey.
The secretary called Fallon a very able military strategist and said his advice will be missed at the Pentagon.
"I think this is a cumulative kind of thing," said Gates, speaking of the circumstances leading up to Fallon's decision. "It isn't the result of any one article or any one issue."
"As I say, the notion that this decision portends anything in terms of change in Iran policy is, to quote myself, 'ridiculous,' " he said.
(with wire reports)