Top U.S. Commander in Middle East Resigns

Adm. William Fallon resigns, citing a magazine article on Bush's Iran policy.

ByABC News
March 11, 2008, 3:31 PM

March 11, 2008 — -- Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, has resigned, citing a magazine article which suggested he was at odds with President Bush's policy toward Iran.

In a statement released by U.S. Central Command, Fallon disputed a recent Esquire magazine article that suggested differences between his views and administration policies concerning Iran.

"Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time, and hamper efforts in the Centcom region," Fallon said in a written statement released from his Tampa, Fla., office.

"And although I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America's interests there," Fallon's statement read.

"I have, therefore, concluded that it would be best to step aside and allow the secretary and our military leaders to move beyond this distraction ... and focus on the achievement of our strategic objectives in the region. I have submitted my request to retire to the secretary of defense."

In the Esquire interview , Fallon is described as the only man standing between the Bush administration and war with Iran.

"If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it'll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it'll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance. His name is William Fallon," reads the magazine article.

In announcing Fallon's resignation Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was "a cumulative kind of thing. It isn't the result of any one article or any one issue."

When asked if today's announcement might be interpreted as a move closer toward military action against Iran, Gates said, "that's ridiculous, just ridiculous. ... The notion that this portends anything in change of Iran policy is, to quote myself, ridiculous."

Gates said Tuesday that Fallon had asked him for permission to retire and Gates agreed. Gates said it was "the right thing to do."