Since taking up the post about a year ago, Fallon has often been portrayed as being at odds with White House policy on how to conduct the war in Iraq, and of being firmly opposed to any military adventures against Iran. It is no secret that Fallon was in favor of diplomacy and engagement rather than confrontation in dealing with Tehran's nuclear issue. Once quoted as saying a war with Iran "would not happen on my watch," the former Navy fighter pilot earned the respect of his staff and the men and women in uniform he commanded, but according to Washington insiders, he also earned a bitter enemy in Vice President Dick Cheney.
Describing the Esquire feature as "poison-pen journalism" Fallon said the reports of his differences with the White House were wrong, but had become a distraction.
Michele Steinberg, a Washington-based political analyst and Counter-intelligence Editor for the Executive Intelligence Review, says Fallon's disputes with Bush may have been exaggerated, but she left open the possibility that rather than resigning, Fallon was probably fired.
"I absolutely agree with Admiral Fallon's characterization of the Tom Barnett piece in Esquire," Steinberg told PressTV News, "It vastly overstated Fallon's role in being part of a very important policy establishment that wants to keep the United States safe, keep the world safe, without war."
And that, Steinberg told PressTV, "Is maybe what happened behind the scenes."
If the stories were false or exaggerated, then a simple joint statement would have put the controversy, and any of Fallon's "distractions' to rest. Instead, however, Fallon's resignation was quickly accepted and announced by a troubled looking Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at a Pentagon press conference. Steinberg pointed to the most likely culprit behind Fallon's fall.
"I think Fallon's differences were with Vice President Dick Cheney," Steinberg said, "who is very displeased with President Bush's Annapolis meeting, he is very displeased with the National Intelligence Estimate which came out in December and pretty much took the wind out of Cheney's sails. The fact that Cheney wants to go to war with Iran before he leaves office in January 2009 is a well-known fact around Washington, and that is really the story behind the resignation of Admiral Fallon."
According to Steinberg, Gates and Fallon shared many of the same opinions on how to deal with Iran, and that may account for the downbeat appearance of the Secretary at the press conference. Fallon's departure, she said, has left the region in a more dangerous situation.
"But let's be clear on this, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is also a strong believer in diplomacy as a tool of foreign policy, and a tool of getting a road to peace in a very unstable region. Bob Gates was a leading member of the Iraq Study Group which said very clearly that if the United States wants to seek a peaceful solution in Iraq and wants to stabilize the region, first of all you have to come to a peace between Israel and Palestine, and secondly, full engagement leading to diplomatic relations with Syria and with Iran," she said, "So that is Gates' view as well. So Fallon was not alone in this. However, it is a much more dangerous situation with a clear headed thinker like Fallon removed from command."
New York-based political analyst Ian Williams was also cautious about accepting the official line that Fallon had simply resigned over a piece of trashy journalism.
In the months before the Persian Gulf War, Williams said, the same things were happening.
"High military commanders were being forced to resign and being replaced with more pliable, more amenable, less worthy generals and admirals who would do what they were told without raising the issue of sanity or diplomacy," he said.