Magazine Called Fallon 'Good Cop' on Iran

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of the U.S. Central Command, is the Bush administration's "good cop" on Iran, according to a profile in the current edition of Esquire magazine that apparently led to his resignation announcement yesterday.

In an admiring article largely reported last fall, when rhetorical belligerence between Tehran and Washington hit one of its periodic highs, author Thomas P.M. Barnett portrays Fallon as "brazenly challenging his commander in chief" on the advisability of war.

What America needs, Fallon tells Barnett, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage." While those words seem tame on their face, they implied criticism of the administration's unwillingness to "engage" with Iran unless it meets certain criteria, including suspension of its nuclear enrichment program and its assistance to Iraqi insurgents.

In case the point is missed, Barnett places Fallon's comments in a context of direct opposition to what he describes as an edgy White House. "He is as patient as the White House is impatient," the article describes the admiral, "as methodical as President Bush is mercurial." Fallon notes that the Centcom region -- spanning the Middle East and much of South Asia -- is a part of the world with "five or six pots boiling over," adding that "our nation can't afford to be mesmerized by one problem."

Barnett writes that when he accompanied Fallon to Egypt last November, the admiral bemoaned being in "hot water again" with the White House after a Cairo newspaper quoted him as telling his Egyptian hosts there would be no war with Iran. "I don't want them to get too spun up," he says of his conversations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the subject. "Washington interprets this as all aimed at them. Instead, it's aimed at governments and media in this region. I'm not talking about the White House."

-- Karen DeYoung

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