- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

1:52 p.m.

Stabilizing Iraq will require “new and different actions” to improve security and promote political reconciliation, the Navy admiral poised to lead American forces in the Middle East said today.

Adm. William J. Fallon, at his confirmation hearing, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it may be time to “redefine the goals” in Iraq.

“I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short,” he said.

Adm. Fallon, 62, who is commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said he saw a need for a comprehensive approach to Iraq, including economic and political actions to resolve a problem that requires more than military force.

“What we have been doing has not been working,” he said. “We have got to be doing, it seems to me, something different.”

Adm. Fallon said that “we probably erred in our assessment” of the Iraqi government’s ability to rebuild its society and establish a peaceful order after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago.

“And maybe we ought to redefine the goals here a bit and do something that’s more realistic in terms of getting some progress and then maybe take on the other things later,” he said.

Later, Adm. Fallon made similar remarks that suggested an effort to tamp down expectations of sudden success in Baghdad as a result of President Bush’s troop buildup.

“I think that we would probably be wise to temper our expectations here, that the likelihood that Iraq is suddenly going to turn into something that looks close to what we enjoy here in this country is going to be a long time coming,” Adm. Fallon said.

Adm. Fallon’s nomination was not expected to rouse Senate protests despite bitter opposition in Congress to Mr. Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

The president nominated Adm. Fallon to replace Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, who is retiring after nearly four years as commander of Central Command.

Several senators asked Adm. Fallon his views on Iran, which the Bush administration accuses of meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs and supplying weapons for use by insurgents against American and Iraqi soldiers.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican, asked what he thinks the intentions of the Iranian government are with regard to security in the Gulf region.

“They are posturing themselves with the capability to attempt to deny us the ability to operate in this vicinity,” Adm. Fallon said, adding that there is room for diplomatic efforts with Iran because it also has an economic stake in keeping open the commercial shipping lanes of the Gulf.

“They are aware of our strike capabilities,” he added, and are looking for ways to either neutralize those U.S. capabilities or to keep U.S. forces at bay.

Adm. Fallon said he has not been ordered to update the Pentagon’s contingency plans for war with Iran.

Asked by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and committee chairman, whether the flow of additional U.S. troops would be tied to progress by the Iraqis on political and other commitments they made to Mr. Bush, Adm. Fallon said he had not yet studied the plans in detail, given his continuing responsibilities as Pacific Command chief.

“I’m surprised you don’t have that understanding going in, frankly,” Mr. Levin said.

Sen. John McCain, the senior Republican on the committee, said he hoped Adm. Fallon intended to give Congress his unvarnished view of conditions in Iraq and elsewhere in his Central Command region.

“Too often, administration officials came before this committee and the American people and painted a rosy scenario when it was not there,” the Arizona senator said, referring to Iraq.

“We need candid assessments, and you’ll get them from me,” Adm. Fallon said.

On Friday the Senate approved, 81-0, Mr. Bush’s nomination of Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus to be the senior U.S. commander in Iraq. Gen. Petraeus, who is replacing Gen. George W. Casey Jr., would report to Adm. Fallon.

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