Friday, March 07, 2008

Fallon could be the signal

There are signs that the Commander US Central Command, Admiral William "Fox" Fallon may be on the move - out the door.

Fallon, a naval aviator, is the regional commander of US forces operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.
In an admiring article on Fallon in Esquire, former Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett writes that Fallon angered the White House by "brazenly challenging" Bush on his aggressive threat of war against Tehran. Barnett also cites "well-placed observers" as saying Bush may soon replace Fallon with a "more pliable" commander. Barnett's account, which quotes conversations with Fallon during the CENTCOM commander's trips to the Middle East, shows that Fallon privately justified his statements contradicting the Bush policy of keeping the "option" of an unprovoked attack on Iran "on the table" as necessary to calm the fears of Egypt and other friendly Arab regimes of a U.S.-Iran war. Barnett recalls that when Fallon was in Cairo in November, the lead story in that day's edition of the English-language daily Egyptian Gazette carried the headline "U.S. Rules Out Strike against Iran" over a picture of Fallon meeting with President Hosni Mubarak. That story, published Nov. 19 and not picked up by any U.S. news media, reported that Fallon had "ruled out a possible strike against Iran and said Washington was mulling non-military options instead." Later that day, according to Barnett, Fallon told him during a coffee break in a military meeting, "I'm in hot water again," and then confirmed that his problems were directly with the White House. That was the second time in less than a week and the third time in seven weeks that Fallon had publicly declared that there would be no war against Iran. In an interview with Al-Jazeera television in September, which Fallon himself had requested, according to a source at Al-Jazeera, he had said, "This constant drum beat of conflict is what strikes me which is not helpful and not useful".
Fallon's selection as Commander CENTCOM was viewed with some alarm by many. He is the first sailor to hold the critical position overseeing most of the US military's expeditionary activities. It was also suggested that, because he is a naval aviator and an aircraft carrier man he possessed the requisite expertise to marshal coordinated naval air forces for an attack on Iran.

That however, would be well beneath both Fallon's role and his reputation. As the Commander CENTCOM Fallon, if there was ever to be a strike against Iran, would have the role of planning and leading it delegated to a subordinate commander. What is more important though is that Fallon has a reputation for reserving military action as a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted.

He was accused by some in the Bush camp of being soft on China when he commanded US forces in the Pacific. According to at least one source Fallon was heard to say about a possible attack on Iran, "It isn't going to happen on my watch."

Fallon, as the commander responsible for the entire Middle East, was concerned about more than the consequences of actually exercising the military option. He was prompted to enunciate a "no-war" line on Iran by the panicky reactions of Arab states to what they thought were indications of the warlike intentions of Bush administration.
In short, the guy knows how to read the reactions of other countries and he's well aware that the Bush administration needs to be reigned in.
The unhappiness of the Bush administration with Fallon's role as well as the unflattering picture of administration policy revealed by the article was evident Thursday from the failure of either the White House or the Pentagon to issue the usual reassuring statements in response to the article.
Bad news. Bush and Cheney have a history of dumping competence and reason in favour of outright fealty. They can't brook criticism.

Keep an eye on Fallon. If he is suddenly replaced or announces his resignation the lashings will be off Bush and Iran will be the target.

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