Prince Harry Will Not Serve in Iraq
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; 5:46 PM
LONDON -- Britain's army reversed course Wednesday and announced that Prince Harry will not be sent to Iraq with his regiment due to "specific threats" from insurgents that expose the third in line to the throne to an unacceptable degree of risk.
Harry had been expected to deploy to southern Iraq in the next few weeks but Army Chief of Staff Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, who recently traveled to Iraq, said the situation there had become too dangerous and media scrutiny of the plans had exacerbated the situation.
The 22-year-old prince, who had long dreamed of leading his tank unit in Iraq, said he is disappointed but respected the decision.
Dannatt said the move was due to specific threats to the prince and risks to the safety of his fellow soldiers.
"There have been a number of specific threats, some reported and some not reported, that relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual," Dannatt said. "These threats exposed him and those around him to a degree of risk I considered unacceptable."
Harry's office issued a statement declaring the prince's disappointment that "he will not be able to go to Iraq with his troop deployment as he had hoped."
"He fully understands Gen. Dannatt's difficult decision and remains committed to his army career," the Clarence House statement said.
In the past, Harry had spoken of his desire to see active service. In an interview to mark his 21st birthday he said he would not have gone through the rigors of officer training at the elite Sandhurst military academy "then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country."
The decision comes three days after insurgents claimed to have captured three U.S. servicemen and amid claims that militia groups were making plans for Harry's arrival in Iraq.
Media reports have said Iraqi insurgents planned to kill or kidnap the prince, and have circulated his photograph among militants in the southern city of Basra. One newspaper report quoted a militia leader saying he planned to take the prince hostage and to send him back to his grandmother _ Queen Elizabeth II _ "without his ears."
Britain's Defense Ministry had long said the decision would be kept under review amid concerns for the security of Harry, a second lieutenant, and other soldiers serving with him. The prince is a tank commander trained to lead a 12-man team in four armored reconnaissance vehicles.
The decision to keep Harry out of Iraq could have a devastating impact on the morale of the British troops in the field, said Charles Heyman, a former British soldier and the editor of the book, "Armed Forces of the UK."