Prince Harry Not Going Iraq, After All

After early indications otherwise, the UK’s chief of staff has decided that sending Prince Harry to Iraq would needlessly endanger both himself and his comrades.

Britain’s Prince Harry will not be sent with his unit to Iraq, Britain’s top general said Wednesday, citing specific threats to the third in line to the throne and the risks to his fellow soldiers.

Prince Harry Beret Photo Britain's Prince Harry wears the beret of the Blues and Royals in his final training exercise, Exercise Threshold, in Cyprus March 2006 in this handout released by Ministry of Defence April 11, 2006. Prince Harry will not be sent to serve in Iraq after military commanders decided it would be too dangerous, Britain's Ministry of Defence said on May 16, 2007. REUTERS/Corporal Ian Holding/RLC/MoD/Files/Handout (BRITAIN) Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief of staff who recently traveled to Iraq, said the changing situation on the ground exposed the prince to too much danger. Media scrutiny of Harry’s potential deployment exacerbated the situation, he said. “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.”

Clarence House, the office of Harry’s father, Prince Charles, issued a statement declaring Harry’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 statement said. “Prince Harry’s thoughts are with the rest of the battle group in Iraq.

The 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 22-year-old prince is a tank commander trained to lead a 12-man team in four armored reconnaissance vehicles. The move comes as Britain is preparing to hand over much of its security responsibilities to Iraqi security forces, concentrating troops at Basra Palace and Basra Air Base.

Insurgent groups looking to target Cornet Wales — as his rank is called in the Blues and Royals regiment — would have had a concentrated area in which to look for him. Defense officials had previously said Harry could be kept out of situations where his presence could jeopardize his comrades. There had been speculation he would have been shadowed by bodyguards. “A contributing factor to this increase in threat to Prince Harry has been the widespread knowledge and discussion of his possible deployment,” Dannatt said.

Harry would have been the first member of the British royal family to serve in a war zone since his uncle, Prince Andrew, flew as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands conflict with Argentina in 1982.

Likely the prudent call, although a disappointing one from the standpoint of sharing the burdens of war. This does, however, have to call into question the future role of the royal family in the military. If they are deemed non-deployable, then they are approximately as useful (to paraphrase a former commander of mine) as teats on a boar hog.

Some may mock Harry’s statement that he is disappointed in not deploying with his men. Having (long ago) been a 22-year-old second lieutenant, however, I’m quite sure his sentiments are genuine. At that age, military officers “get” to go to war and find “missing out” on the “action” quite frustrating.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tlaloc says:

    Didn’t he say he would resign if he was not deployed to Iraq?

  2. Triumph says:

    Didn’t he say he would resign if he was not deployed to Iraq?

    No, you are thinking of former Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey who was going to resign after Gonzalez tried to get a near-comatose John Ashcroft to sign off on Bush’s domestic spying program.

  3. Steph says:

    Of course it’s a lie that only the poor serve. Considering 4 members of my brother’s graduating class from a high school in a town in the top 10 in the nation in wealth are there or have been there including himself.

    The prince’s grandmother the current Queen was an ambulance driver in ww2.

    Far more fascinating woman than his mother.

    Oh and those 4 were of a graduating class of only 64.

  4. Steph says:

    Possibly he can be of service elsewhere to help out to replace someone who is in Iraq.

    In 91 my other brother (not the one mentioned above) was in Germany so someone else could go to Iraq who had more advanced training in a combat zone or something like that but they needed the position filled.

  5. fredw says:

    This has to make me re-evaluate my opinion of our possibility of success in Iraq; what does it say about our success in Iraq — that the entire British army cannot protect Harry?

  6. graywolf says:

    The British military is a mess.
    First, the thumb-suckers who the Iranians took hostage;obviously the products of minimal training and discipline.
    Now, the Chief of Staff (who looks more like a retired bank teller than a soldier) admits that his Army can’t protect one of its own.

  7. Kent says:

    Fredw, graywolf,

    The British army isn’t in Iraq to protect one of their own. They have other things to do.

  8. Anjin-San says:

    Course we could solve the problem by getting the hell out of Iraq and letting the people there figure out their own problems…

  9. fredw says:


    Thanks for the response, but the point is; if they can’t secure Harry and his unit against terrorist threats, I doubt that they are capable of securing anything else. Isn’t restoring order and security the other thing they have to do? I am looking for good news on Iraq, and this is not it.

  10. just me says:

    But would Harry’s presence really be a help, if the British Army has to protect him rather than concentrating on their mission?

    I think about the only way Harry could easily and succesfully serve in Iraq would be for him to go incognito without the security and all that, and use a different name, of course it is kind of hard to avoid people recognizing you, when your picture has been plastered in every magazine, tabloid, and newspaper since the day you were born.

  11. fredw says:

    Granted that Harry’s presence will distract from the mission. The very fact that this is true is a very bad sign. The terrorists say “send Harry and we will kill him” and the Brits change their minds and do not send him, what message does that send our enemies? This does not speak of adding a difficulty to a successful mission, this speaks of pushing a failing mission over the edge. As I said, I am looking for good news in Iraq. At first I took sending Harry as a sign of confidence, good news. I take the decision to keep him home as very bad news.

  12. Michael says:

    You don’t get it do you? They’re not doing this because they’re afraid he’ll be killed. He joined the military knowing that he might be killed. They trained him knowing that he might be killed. He was scheduled to be deployed to Iraw knowing that he might be killed. There was never any intention of having to “protect” him any more than any other British soldier.

    The reason they’re not deploying him is a military one. He’s more valuable as a propaganda win to the enemy than as a soldier to the British forces. This isn’t about him, it’s about not introducing anything into the theater that will benefit your enemy more than it will benefit you. It would be like gold-plating your tanks.

    If this were active combat, instead of policing, then sending him would make sense because he wouldn’t be any more of a strategic win for the enemy than any other ranking officer. But since this conflict is about psychology and not strategy, he’s a liability more than an asset.

  13. fredw says:

    Let me stress that you are absolutely correct, and that is the problem. If we were succeeding, the military reason you state would be moot, and that is the point.

    As far as I know, John McCain was the first American dignitary to be driven from the airport to the green zone. Why did we let him drive when everyone else had been helicoptered out of the airport? If he would have been captured or killed it would have been a huge advantage for the enemy.

    I would infer that we let him drive because, as a result of the increased troops in the surge, we finally have some level of control and stability in that area. The psychological advantage was greater that the risk. This indicates more progress in Baghdad than the news reports of his trip seemed to indicate.

    If the British mission were succeeding, there would not be a question of “introducing anything into the theater that will benefit your enemy more than it will benefit you”. If the mission was succeeding, the psychological advantage of sending Harry would exceed the risk. That this risk exceeds the reward is the point. To me it says that the Shia south is unstable, uncontrolled, and more in conflict than we are generally aware of; a very bad sign for our mission in Iraq.

    I will not rebut this point here again, but I would appreciate your responding again if you still think I am off track.