Fallon, Top U.S. Commander in Mideast, Resigns
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
A surprise resignation today at the Defense Department - Admiral William Fallon, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is standing down. Fallon is head of Central Command. His resignation follows a story in Esquire magazine in which Fallon seem to question the Bush administration's policy on Iran. Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied there are differences between Fallon's views and administration policy.
Secretary ROBERT GATES (U.S. Defense Department): 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.
BLOCK: Joining me now from the Pentagon is NPR's Tom Bowman. And Tom, this is a long article in Esquire magazine. Which parts of it seem to have gotten Admiral Fallon in trouble here?
TOM BOWMAN: Well, first of all, you have to understand that Fallon is a crusty and unvarnished old naval pilot. He flew combat missions in Vietnam. And generally is pretty blunt. And in the article, he's quoted as saying of Iran, quote, "five or six pots boiling over, our nation can't afford to be mesmerized by one problem," meaning Iran. In another part of the article, there's a - he's talking with the writer and there's the Egyptian Gazette on the table with the headline, U.S. Rules Out Strike Against Iran, and there's a picture with Fallon and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. And Fallon tells the author, I'm in hot water again. And the writer asked him, the White House? And he nods.
And so clearly, the article - I mean, one senior officer I spoke with in the Pentagon today called the article awful and flippant, and he said it raised many eyebrows.
BLOCK: The article also said that people were telling the writer, it would be no surprise if Admiral Fallon were relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer. Of course, this is sooner. Is it clear to you that he actually was relieved of his command, or did he resign?
BOWMAN: That's going a little too far. I say, it's probably somewhere in the middle, that he was sort of nudged out of office. I think that's closer to the truth. In his resignation letter, he denied any differences in policy - what he called a disconnect. And he said, the problem is the simple perception there is one, makes it difficult for me to stay and serve in Central Command.
BLOCK: What else did the defense secretary have to say about any policy differences between the two?
BOWMAN: Well, he was sort of on the same theme here. He said - Gates said, he saw no differences in policy at all. He said, it was all - what he called a perception problem or a misperception, but he also added it was the right thing to do for Fallon to step down.
BLOCK: Who would be in line, Tom, to succeed Admiral Fallon at Central Command?
BOWMAN: His deputy will take over, at least temporarily, until the Senate can confirm a new commander and that's - his deputy is Army Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey. He was in Iraq. He commanded a Army division and later went on to train Iraqi forces.
BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Tom Bowman at the Pentagon. Thanks so much.
BOWMAN: You're welcome.