Iran General NewsTop U.S. Mideast commander quits after Iran article

Top U.S. Mideast commander quits after Iran article

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Reuters: Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. commander for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, announced his retirement on Tuesday citing what he called false reports of big differences between him and the Bush administration over Iran. By Andrew Gray and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. commander for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, announced his retirement on Tuesday citing what he called false reports of big differences between him and the Bush administration over Iran.

His decision followed a report in Esquire magazine last week which called Fallon “The Man between War and Peace” and portrayed him as resisting a drive by the administration to take tougher action against Tehran.

Announcing Fallon’s decision to reporters at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates dismissed a conclusion of the Esquire article that if Fallon were to leave his post it would make war with Iran more likely.

“I have approved Admiral Fallon’s request to retire with reluctance and regret,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Admiral Fallon reached this difficult decision entirely on his own,” he said. “I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy.”

The Bush administration says its policy is to use diplomacy to resolve its differences with Iran, particularly over Tehran’s nuclear program, but it will not take military options off the table.

Washington and other Western nations say Iran is trying to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is to produce energy.

Fallon heads U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, the headquarters that oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been in the post for just under a year.

WAR AND PEACE

The Esquire article that led to his resignation described Fallon as challenging the White House and urging restraint on Iran.

Fallon cooperated with the author during the article’s preparation but strongly criticized the story after it appeared, describing it as “poison pen stuff”.

But Gates said the perception that Fallon was at odds with the administration was not linked just to the article.

“We have tried between us to put this misperception behind us over a period of months and, frankly, just have not been successful in doing so,” he said.

Fallon will retire at the end of the month. His deputy, Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, will take charge of Central Command until a long-term successor is chosen, Gates said.

Fallon said he had concluded that perceptions of a rift were hurting his ability to do his job.

“Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the President’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the CENTCOM region,” he said in a statement.

“And although I don’t believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America’s interests there,” Fallon said.

Both Gates and Bush praised Fallon’s military service.

“Admiral William Fallon has served our nation with great distinction for forty years,” Bush said in a statement.

“During his tenure at CENTCOM, Admiral Fallon’s job has been to help ensure that America’s military forces are ready to meet the threats of an often troubled region of the world, and he deserves considerable credit for progress that has been made there, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bush said.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Andrew Gray, Editing by Patricia Wilson and Philip Barbara)

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