The British MoD is still anguishing over its decision to let Prince Harry--third in line to the throne--deploy with his unit to Iraq next month.
According to the U.K. Times, deliberations on whether Harry should be allowed to go will continue until his regiment, the Household Calvary) begins its deployment in early May. Harry, known in the Army as Cornet (2nd Lieutenant) Wales, has been assigned as a troop leader in his unit, and is qualified to lead reconnaissance patrols in Scimitar armored vehicles.
But Army officials are concerned that a recent attack against a British patrol in southern Iraq was a "dry run" for a possible strike against Prince Harry's squad. That attack, which killed two British soldiers, was also aimed at a small reconnaissance unit equipped with Scimitars.
The final decision on Harry's deployment rests with General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the British Army. Defense sources tell the Times that General Dannatt has asked military and intelligence services for revised risk assessments on the deployment, to determine if Harry's presence would pose an undue risk to him, and the troops under his command.
Obviously, the terrorists in Iraq would welcome the chance to kill or maim a member of Britain's royal family, but that's nothing new. Over the centuries, the royals have seen combat in scores of conflicts, and Britain's enemies offered no quarter because of their presence. During World War II, a destroyer commanded by Harry's great-great uncle (Lord Mountbatten) was sunk by the Luftwaffe, Mountbatten himself was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979. Harry's grandfather, Prince Phillip, also saw action with the Royal Navy during World War II, and his uncle, Prince Andrew, was a combat helicopter pilot in the Falklands Campaign. Those members of the royal family did not ask for special favors because of their position--only the opportunity to do their jobs. Prince Harry has made a similar request in being allowed to accompany his regiment to Iraq.
While we understand British concerns about security, those considerations are out-weighed by more important considerations. First--like other Army officers--Prince Harry understands the risks associated with this deployment, and is quite willing to accept them. He's been thoroughly trained for his assigned task, and if Harry comes under enemy fire, we have no doubt that he'll acquit himself well.
More importantly, Harry seems to understand the risks involved if he doesn't deploy. It would it reduce his effectiveness as a leader, both in and out of uniform. If British press reports are accurate, the Prince has reportedly wondered how he could face his men if they go to Iraq, and he is held back for security reasons. And, on a larger scale, Harry seems to understand that he will lose respect with some of his countrymen, if the deployment is ultimately vetoed.
Beyond that, Harry's comments also suggest that he also appreciates the geopolitical implications of a cancelled deployment. By refusing to allow the Prince to serve in Iraq, the British MoD would provide a victory for Al Qaida, pure and simple. Cancelling Harry's deployment would send the wrong signal to our enemies, namely that recent attacks in southern Iraq south are sapping British resolve, and the security situation is so dire that a trained Army officer (who happens to be a royal) doesn't have a reasonable chance of completing his mission safely.
Regarding the deployment of Cornet Wales, we hope that General Dannatt makes the right decision, for the officer, his unit, and the wider war on terrorism. Prince Harry has earned the right to do his duty, even in a tough environment like Iraq.