Sunday 16 May 2021 | 07:28 | SYDNEY
Sunday 16 May 2021 | 07:28 | SYDNEY

When the admiral talks you better listen to him


Michael Fullilove


12 November 2007 14:24

The Financial Times has a couple of reports today in which Admiral William Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, plays down the prospect of a US strike against Iran’s nuclear program. In the first article (you need a free subscription to view), Admiral Fallon says that while the program is a 'challenge', a strike is not 'in the offing'. Asked whether American rhetoric was fuelling speculation about an attack, he replied: 'the bellicose comments are not particularly helpful'.

The striking thing about these remarks is that the two main sources of recent bellicosity also work for the US government – in the White House, as it happens. Admiral Fallon’s commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush, claimed last month that a nuclear-armed Iran threatened ‘World War Three’. A few days later Vice-President Dick Cheney warned of ‘serious consequences’ if Iran continued to pursue nukes. 

And just in case you think that Fallon’s comments have been spun by the FT, and he actually meant to diss a hardline commentator such as Norman Podhoretz or John Bolton, Fallon is quoted in the second FT piece as saying: 'It seems to me that we don’t need more problems… It astounds me that so many pundits and others are spending so much time yakking about this topic.' Who can these ‘others’ be, if not Mr Bush and Mr Cheney? 

In other words, Admiral Fallon seems to have deliberately aimed a shot across the bows of his superiors. Leaving aside the doctrine of civilian control of the military, this confirms that the senior ranks of the Pentagon remain strongly opposed to the use of force against Tehran, for fairly obvious reasons including the low prospects for success, the likely Iranian response, and the current condition of the US military. The top brass will have noted carefully how the Iraq war has shredded their predecessors’ reputations. It looks like they are determined to put up more of a fight to the Administration over Iran.