Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, announced last Tuesday that he will retire at the end of March. His announcement came on the heels of an Esquire magazine article portraying Fallon as a lone voice in the Bush administration speaking in opposition to military strikes against Iran. The article cites Fallon as saying
This constant drumbeat of conflict…is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.
The author of the article, former Pentagon official Thomas P.M. Barnett, goes on to talk about how Fallon’s statements put him at odds with the White House and the dangerous course our policy towards Iran could take without Fallon.
Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon’s statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.
Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon’s caution was justified. But still, 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.
And so Fallon, the good cop, may soon be unemployed because he’s doing what a generation of young officers in the U.S. military are now openly complaining that their leaders didn’t do on their behalf in the run-up to the war in Iraq: He’s standing up to the commander in chief, whom he thinks is contemplating a strategically unsound war.
While some speculate that Fallon’s resignation is a warning sign that the Bush administration will push for military strikes against Iran, there are indications that the public would not go along with attacks. A new BBC World Service poll on Iran’s nuclear program interviewed citizens in 31 countries and found that
Compared to results from a June 2006 BBC World Service Poll, support for economic sanctions or military strikes has declined significantly, including in countries that were previously among the highest supporters of tough action.
Respondents were presented four options that the UN Security Council could use to address the fact that Iran continues to produce nuclear fuel in defiance of the UN Security Council resolution. The options of economic sanctions or military strikes were rejected in 27 out of 31 countries. Instead, the most preferred approaches are to either use only diplomatic efforts or not pressure Iran at all.
Only 15 percent of United States respondents favored military strikes against Iran, while 45 percent favored economic sanctions. The American public recognizes the need for a new approach to foreign policy while the Bush administration does not. Fallon’s departure adds to the need for Americans to be diligent and outspoken in pushing our leaders in Congress to stand up for diplomacy with Iran this year. Keep an eye out in May for whom Defense Secretary Robert Gates chooses to be the next commander to oversee US military operations in the Middle East.
Currently, there is legislation in Congress called the Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008 (H.R. 5056), which would begin direct and unconditional diplomatic negotiations between the US and Iran. This bill would allow the president to appoint a high-level representative of the US or a special envoy for Iran to help ease tensions between our two countries. You can ask your representative to co-sponsor the Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008 by clicking here.