PUTTING THE CRAZIES BACK IN THE BOX….Remember that plan from last February to send a third carrier group to the Persian Gulf in order to rattle a few sabers at Iran? Newsweek reported it in their February 19 issue, but then carried a correction saying that “In fact, the USS Nimitz is scheduled to replace one of the other carrier groups operating there.” (Italics mine.) Later, when the Nimitz carrier strike group sailed from San Diego, the Navy reported that it would indeed be a replacement, not an addition. “There is no plan to overlap them at all,” they said.

So what really happened? There’s no telling for sure, but Gareth Porter claims that there was originally a plan to overlap the carrier groups, but that it was scuttled by Admiral William Fallon, who had been appointed as the new CENTCOM commander at around the time the plan was hatched. Here’s his story:

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.”

Needless to say, an anonymous source who “obtained the gist of Fallon’s message from a Pentagon official who had read it” should be taken with a grain of salt. But a second source seems to have backed up the story, so it seems like a bit of gossip worth passing along. Porter goes on to say that “The defeat of the plan for a third carrier task group in the Gulf appears to have weakened the position of Cheney and other hawks in the administration who had succeeded in selling Bush on the idea of a strategy of coercive threat against Iran.”

Interesting stuff, no? I’ll be curious to see if anyone else confirms it.