U.S. commander for Middle East resigns
Adm. William Fallon stepped down after an article in Esquire magazine portrayed his views on Iran as being at odds with those of President Bush.
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The Washington Post quoted Fallon as saying that the Esquire article is "poison-pen stuff" and "really disrespectful and ugly."Skip to next paragraph
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the commander's resignation in a last-minute press conference in the Pentagon Tuesday afternoon. Secretary Gates said the resignation was not the result of any one article, but he did cite the perception that recent reports left.
"I don't know whether he was misinterpreted or whether people attributed views to him that were not his views, but clearly there was a concern," Gates said.
Fallon was thought to have disliked Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq. Although some believe the rift between them was exaggerated, most defense officials close to the men say it was clear that the two weren't close.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Fallon's resignation is another example that "independence and the frank, open airing of experts' views are not welcomed in this administration."
The surprise announcement put some Washington military analysts at a loss to know what it all meant initially. "I can't clearly see what the reason would be for why he resigned," says Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He notes Fallon's reasonably good relationship with the president and the fact that he was a recent arrival to the job. Fallon was assigned to Central Command about a year ago.
Fallon, who had occupied several senior jobs across the military, may simply be fatigued, Mr. O'Hanlon says, and given the controversy, this may have been as good a time as any to leave.
Although Fallon oversees the Middle East region, the success that General Petraeus has had in Iraq may overshadow his ability to be effective in the job, O'Hanlon says.
Fallon ends a 42-year career in the Navy. Before he was assigned to Central Command, he was the commander of US Pacific Command. There, he often "leaned forward" on engaging with China, arguing that US-Chinese relations were too important to ignore.
Some conservative critics believe he was too friendly with the Chinese, whose military buildup and global ambitions are unclear.