Top military commander for Middle East resigning
( dpa )- The top US military commander for the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, has resigned following a magazine article that portrayed him as opposed to the White House's policy on Iran, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
"The current embarrassing situation, public perception of differences between my views and administration policy, and the distraction this causes from the mission make this the right thing to do," Fallon said in a statement Gates read to reporters.
Gates said he did not believe "there really were differences at all" between Fallon and the Bush administration, which has not ruled out the use of military force against Iran for its suspicious nuclear activities.
"I don't know whether he was misinterpreted or whether people attributed views to him that were not his views," Gates said. "But clearly, it was a concern that he had."
Gates said Fallon, who will also be retiring from the military, was not pressured to resign. He will be leaving his post at the end of the month.
Gates said it was "ridiculous" to speculate that Fallon's departure means the United States is preparing for a military strike against Iran.
Fallon has been head of Central Command since March 2007, replacing retiring General John Abizaid. Central Command oversees US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and is at the forefront of the war on terrorism.
"He deserves considerable credit for progress that has been made there, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan," Bush said in a statement.
The Esquire magazine article on March 5 titled The Man Between War and Peace portrayed Fallon as resistent to White House policies. The article said the admiral was "brazenly challenging" Bush on Iran "against what he saw as an ill-advised action."
Fallon apparently told the article's author that he was in "hot water again" with the White House for telling Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak that Iran would not be attacked. Fallon has reportedly said a war with Iran would not happen on "my watch."
In an interview last week with the Washington Post, Fallon dismissed the Esquire article as "poison pen stuff" and "really disrespectful and ugly."
Gates said Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, the deputy commander of Central Command, which is based in Tampa, Florida, will serve as acting commander until the Senate confirms a Bush nominee for the job.