AP: The top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Sunday that Iran is a major player in the region that cannot be ignored but that the United States has no intention of leaving, as Iran would like to see happen. Associated Press
By PAT MILTON
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – The top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Sunday that Iran is a major player in the region that cannot be ignored but that the United States has no intention of leaving, as Iran would like to see happen.
Adm. William Fallon said the U.S. would continue to maintain a presence in the Middle East, as it has for decades, at the request of other countries in the region.
“We have to figure out a way to come to an arrangement with them,” Fallon said about Iran in an interview with The Associated Press.
The admiral’s remarks came on the eve of a meeting between American and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad to discuss ways to ease the crisis in Iraq. It would be a rare one-on-one forum between the two countries, which broke off formal relations after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Fallon was in New York to be the keynote speaker at a Memorial Day ceremony hosted by the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Central Park on Monday.
Fallon succeeded Army Gen. John Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command earlier this year. He is overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and managing military relationships with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other nations at the center of President Bush’s strategy for fighting terrorism.
Fallon said he welcomed Bush’s creation of an Iraqi war czar position, which was created to eliminate conflicts between the Pentagon, Department of State and other agencies.
He also said about three-quarters of the U.S. troops are in place for a planned surge in Iraq and that the additional troops will be in place by next month.
Fallon said increased U.S. efforts to root out insurgents and quell sectarian violence could mean an increase in casualties.
“We are uncovering the bad actors, and they are not taking it lying down,” Fallon said. “We are trying to turn the balance, and they are fighting back.”