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Terrorism & Security

Speculation persists about Admiral Fallon's departure from Pentagon

Broad outspokenness, and not a White House plan for war with Iran, most likely led to his retirement from Central Command.

By / March 13, 2008

Despite speculation that the sudden retirement Tuesday of Adm. William Fallon, the head of US Central Command, might suggest a push by the White House toward war with Iran, Admiral Fallon's resignation appears not to be a signal of new hostilities.

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Fallon had publicly opposed possible military action against Iran. But, The Washington Post reports, the Bush administration's support for a military strike has eroded in recent months.

[President] Bush has publicly maintained that he wants to use diplomacy to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but he has pointedly refused to take the military option off the table. Some experts cautioned that Bush's views could still trump his advisers' contrary opinions. Yet, the administration's ability to execute such a strategy has been weakened in recent months, said former officials and Iran experts, in large measure because a November intelligence estimate on Iran lessened anxieties that the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons capability is imminent. "The way [White House officials] see Iran has not gone away," said Vali Nasr, an authority on Iran at Tufts University. "Their capacity to do something has been cut down."

The perception that Fallon's departure could be a precursor to a conflict with Iran was put forward in an article titled "The Man Between War and Peace" from the April issue of Esquire. The article, published before the admiral stepped down, described Fallon as "the good cop on Iran," the lone voice in the Bush administration opposing military force against Iran, and indicated Bush "may have had enough."

Well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don't want a commander standing in their way.

The article prompted a flurry of subsequent media reports, which Fallon cited as the reason for his retirement. Some reports speculated that the Esquire article might prophesy a possible escalation in Iran.


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