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British prince avoids being sent to Iraq, but the rest of his army unit is still going

*** When Prince Harry's army unit is set to Iraq, the prince will not go with them, because it would be "too risky". Iraq is quite a risky place for other soldiers too, but as a wealthy white aristocrat Harry's safety is more important. In fact since the US and UK invaded Iraq has become dangerous even for the people who have to live there. ***

Prince Harry will not go to Iraq, head of the army rules

General not willing to 'export risks to families'
Media blamed for causing increase in threat

After months of speculation and agonising by military advisers, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, announced yesterday that Prince Harry will not, after all, join his comrades in southern Iraq.

The prince had [supposedly] wanted to go, and the general initially wanted to send him.

But after consulting military commanders on a visit to Basra last week, Gen Dannatt decided it would be too risky both for Prince Harry and the fellow members of his Household Cavalry squadron, who would also become targets for insurgents.

Specific threats to the prince "expose not only him but also those around him to a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable", the general said. He insisted that though his squadron was willing to share those risks, he was not prepared to "export those risks to the families".

The royal family and the government had always said the decision was up to Gen Dannatt.

"It's an operational decision taken by the military which we of course respect," Downing Street added.

Gen Dannatt referred in his prepared statement yesterday to a number of "specific threats - some reported and some not reported - which relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual".

The general continued: "I have to add that a contributing factor to this increase in threat to Prince Harry has been the widespread knowledge and discussion of his deployment. It is a fact that this close scrutiny has exacerbated the situation and this is something that I wish to avoid in future".

This thinly veiled criticism of the media reflected deep frustration among army commanders and the Ministry of Defence about the inevitable coverage of the 22 year-old prince's potential deployment.

They were reluctant to advise that he should not go for two principal reasons.

The prince had made it known that he had wanted to go to Iraq with his platoon - he said he did not want to be sitting on "my arse" at home while his comrades were fighting for their country.

The MoD was also acutely aware that a decision not to let him go could be seen as a propaganda victory for those who promised to track down the prince, notably elements of the Mahdi army, the Shia militia loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

A commander in the Mahdi army told the Guardian last month that Prince Harry would be a prime kidnap target for insurgents in Iraq. "One of our aims is to capture Harry; we have people inside the British bases to inform us on when he will arrive," claimed Abu Mujtaba, who commands a unit of around 50 men active in the Mahdi army in Basra.

The kidnapping - or worse - of the prince by the militia, or any other insurgent group, would have provoked an unprecedented crisis for the government as well as the army and given insurgents in southern Iraq a big propaganda victory.

Gen Dannatt now regards those threats as credible, though at the time defence officials dismissed them as rhetoric and propaganda, and attacked the media for publishing them.

However, any insurgent group intent on targeting the prince would have plenty of other ways of knowing (including via the MoD's website) that his regiment was the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry and that its specific task was to carry out reconnaissance in ageing Scimitar armoured vehicles.

The MoD yesterday could not say how Gen Dannatt's express wish to avoid such "close scrutiny" could be avoided in future.

In his statement, Gen Dannatt said: "Let me also make quite clear that as a professional soldier, Prince Harry will be extremely disappointed." He said he commended the prince for his "determination and his undoubted talent".

The general added: "And I do not say that lightly. His soldiers will miss his leadership in Iraq, although I know his commanding officer will provide a highly capable substitute troop leader".

The general said he was not prepared to speculate "either now or in the future on what Prince Harry might be doing over the next few weeks and months".

Clarence House said the prince "fully understands and accepts" the situation and remains committed to his army career. Defence sources last night suggested that Harry had no alternative after the decision but to stay with the rest of his regiment at home.

Reg Keys, whose son, Thomas, was killed in Basra in 2003, said he found the decision distasteful. "It would appear that Harry's life is more valuable than my son or the other nearly 150 service personnel who've given their lives."

Rose Gentle, whose son, Gordon, was killed in Iraq, said: "If it's too dangerous for Prince Harry, it's too dangerous for the rest of the boys. They should all come home". Mr Keys and Mrs Gentle are both members of Military Families Against the War.

Where could he go?

British soldiers are currently serving in a number of countries across the world. According to the MoD, there are deployments in:

Afghanistan: 6,300

Northern Ireland: 6,000

Bosnia and Kosovo: 300

There are a small number of advisers and soldiers operating in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Falkland Islands. There are permanent bases in Cyprus and Gibraltar.

British casualties in Iraq:

So far, 148 British armed forces personnel have died in Iraq since the campaign started in March 2003.

119 are classed as 'killed in action' or 'died of wounds sustained from action'.

UK military and civilian casualties:

On top of that total, there have been 173 casualties up to the end of April this year.

In Afghanistan:

Fifty-four British forces personnel have died while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001. Thirty-two are classed as 'killed in action' or 'died of wounds sustained from action'.

Source: MoD


The Guardian, "Prince Harry will not go to Iraq, head of the army rules", 17 May 2007.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 17 May 2007.

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Tags: Prince Harry, Iraq, army, deployed, specific, threat, target, , conspiracy theories.

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