Secretary Robert Gates has announced that Centcom commander Adm. William Fallon has submitted his resignation. Fallon was subject of a recent Esquire article, which stated that the admiral could be “relieved of his command before his time is up next spring,” in favor of a commander more amenable to war with Iran.
According to Gates, Fallon resigned because the fall-out from the article. Gates said Fallon told him: “The current embarrassing situation, public perception of differences between my views and administration policy, and the distraction this causes from the mission make this the right thing to do.” Gates said he approved Fallon’s request to retire with “reluctance and regret.” Watch it:
Last week, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino downplayed Fallon’s possible retirement, decrying “rumor mills that don’t turn out to be true.”
Fallon opposed the “surge” in Iraq and has consistently battled the Bush administration to avoid a confrontation with Iran, calling officials’ warmongering rhetoric “not helpful.” He rejected the praise in the Esquire piece, calling it “poison pen stuff.”
A reporter noted to Gates there was a “line in that Esquire story that said basically if Fallon gets fired, it means we’re going to war with Iran. Can you just address that?” Gates responded, “Well that’s just ridiculous.”
UPDATE: Sources at the Pentagon said that Fallon was worried the White House would “perceive the magazine piece as a challenge to the president’s authority, and insisted that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
UPDATE II: Last year, Fallon vowed that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.”
UPDATE IV: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has issued this statement:
I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration.
UPDATE V: Spencer Ackerman writes:
Gates said in a press conference just now that no one should think the move reflects any substantive change in policy. That sure won’t be how Teheran sees it. The Iranians will consider Fallon’s resignation to indicate that the bombing begins in the next five minutes.
UPDATE VI: The National Security Network compiles examples of Fallon’s dissenting views from the Bush administration.