CentCom chief blocking Iran attack?

When Adm. William Fallon was named to replace Gen. John Abizaid as chief of Central Command in January, we recognized it as part of a tilt to the “pragmatists” and away from the hubristic neocons in Washington. Now comes word (via InterPress Service, May 15) that Fallon essentially “vetoed” an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three in February, and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CentCom. The story by Gareth Porter relies on anonymous sources, but seems plausible enough. An excerpt:

At a mid-February meeting of top civilian officials over which Secretary of Defence Gates presided, there was an extensive discussion of a strategy of intimidating Tehran’s leaders, according to an account by a Pentagon official who attended the meeting given to a source outside the Pentagon. The plan involved a series of steps that would appear to Tehran to be preparations for war, in a manner similar to the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But Fallon, who was scheduled to become the CENTCOM chief Mar. 16, responded to the proposed plan by sending a strongly-worded message to the Defence Department in mid-February opposing any further U.S. naval buildup in the Persian Gulf as unwarranted.

“He asked why another aircraft carrier was needed in the Gulf and insisted there was no military requirement for it,” says the source, who obtained the gist of Fallon’s message from a Pentagon official who had read it.

Fallon’s refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.”

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, “You know what choices I have. I’m a professional.” Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.”

The decision to send a second carrier task group to the Gulf had been officially requested by Fallon’s predecessor at CentCom, Gen. John Abizaid, according to a Dec. 20 report in the Washington Post, which called it part of a strategy of sending “pointed messages” to Iran.

See our last posts on Iran, the politics of the GWOT and the tilt to the “pragmatists.”