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Prince Charles castigated Blair as Bush’s ‘poodle’

Had Charles, rather than the Queen, been on the throne at the time of the second Iraq War, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s weekly Wednesday meeting with the monarch would without doubt have been a verbal battle ground.

Many close to the Prince believe that in private he would undoubtedly have voiced ‘his strongest possible objections’ on the war. 

He most certainly would have ‘advised and warned’ against British military intervention.

As King, his advice to Blair would have been to heed the warnings of Arab leaders in the region, men with whom Charles had built up good working relations over the years.

Many close to the prince believe that in private he would have voiced his objections on the Iraq war

Charles, after all, was diametrically opposed to the Blair–Bush Iraq War strategy.

‘There is no doubt Mr Blair would not have been given an easy ride from HRH over Iraq Two,’ an ex-household source reiterated.

A British monarch’s residual powers — the so-called royal prerogative — are mostly exercised through the government of the day.

These include the power to enact legislation, to award honours (on the advice of the prime minister), to sign treaties and, crucially in this case, to declare war.

But would the Prince, given his deeply held conviction, simply have rubberstamped a decision to invade Iraq, as the Queen did? I think it is at best doubtful.

Over the years, Charles has established close working and personal ties with royal Arab leaders. 

He is well respected in the Gulf States and Middle East, not least for his sympathetic speeches about Islam. Like Blair, he studied the Koran in depth and has even, over years, learned Arabic.

When corresponding with Arab leaders he always signs his name in Arabic, another small nod to respecting the other culture. Indeed, he thinks Islam can teach us all a way of understanding and living in the world, which sadly, he believes, Christianity is poorer for having lost.

Prince Charles believes that, by shackling Britain to the flawed Bush administration, Tony Blair missed a golden opportunity to forge an alternative consensus, one that both secured the crucial support of Arab leaders and embraced their unique perspective and understanding of the often troubled region.

Privately, he castigated both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Blair’s combative role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 military invasion of Iraq.

The prince was diametrically opposed to the Blair¿Bush Iraq War strategy. He believed that, by shackling Britain to the flawed Bush administration, Tony Blair missed a golden opportunity to forge an alternative consensus

The prince was diametrically opposed to the Blair–Bush Iraq War strategy. He believed that, by shackling Britain to the flawed Bush administration, Tony Blair missed a golden opportunity to forge an alternative consensus

His views did not come with hindsight. Charles made his no-nonsense position clear to those in power at the time.

He told political figures and those in his trusted circle that he regarded the Bush Administration as ‘terrifying’ and pilloried what he believes was Blair’s lack of perspicacity. He believed Blair had behaved like Bush’s ‘poodle’ and said so.

One of his circle revealed: ‘Whenever he followed in the wake of the Prime Minister on an overseas visit he would quote a phrase dryly, ‘Thou shalt go behind the rear of the Lord to declare his song.’ It would always get a laugh.’

Indeed, the Prince of Wales cast serious doubt on the government’s 2002 intelligence dossier long before the BBC report in May 2003 that it had been ‘sexed up’. 

Prince Charles told political figures and those in his trusted circle that he regarded the Bush Administration as 'terrifying'

Prince Charles told political figures and those in his trusted circle that he regarded the Bush Administration as ‘terrifying’

As for George W. Bush, Charles believed the president ‘lacked intelligence’ and said Bush would always remain a ‘mystery’ to him.

On Blair, the Prince was even more condemnatory. 

With a heavy dollop of irony, he scornfully dubbed the premier ‘our magnificent leader’ whenever talking about him in private and derided him for ignoring the wealth of sound intelligence available to him at the time that contradicted the American view.

Charles repeatedly told friends that Blair should have listened to Arab leaders about how to act over Iraq.

The Arab rulers had told him again and again how uneasy they were about Blair becoming so closely aligned with Bush and how ‘bewildered and saddened’ they were by the UK’s position in being ‘tied to the USA’s coat-tails’ over Iraq. 

Charles asked one high-level source damningly: ‘Why did Mr Blair do it, despite what they must all have been telling him before the conflict about the dangers of stirring the hornets’ nest up in this part of the world?’

The Prince of Wales (pictured with sons William and Harry) repeatedly told friends that Blair should have listened to Arab leaders about how to act over Iraq

The Prince of Wales (pictured with sons William and Harry) repeatedly told friends that Blair should have listened to Arab leaders about how to act over Iraq

‘The Prince,’ one senior source and former member of the Royal Household said, ‘had a very clear position on the West’s so-called democratisation of Iraq and the region, based on years of study and conversations with leaders there.

‘HRH did try very hard to engage senior figures on this, but nobody in government wanted to listen to a word he said. Their minds were made up.’

When given the opportunity, the Prince would point out why the delicate differences in culture in the region were crucial to understand. 

It was a region dominated by tribal loyalties, and still is. So marching in carrying a banner for Western-style democracy was both foolhardy and futile.

One of the Prince’s circle, who was fully aware of his views at the time, said: ‘The Prince was wise enough to foresee that. Why weren’t the politicians of the day?’

The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from March 20 to May 1. 

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Charles found the United States and United Kingdom government ‘solutions’ to be both naive and inept.

The Prince privately questioned the legitimacy of so-called ‘democratic elections’ that followed when it was happening against a background of intimidation, violence and inter-tribal feuding.

One impeccable source said: ‘Around this time the Prince grew increasingly frustrated with the Iraq issue. It left him deeply depressed.’ 

Another informed source told me: ‘I remember one evening when the Boss was particularly animated on this subject.

‘He was very critical of the Bush administration and the President in particular, saying that he felt our children’s futures appear to be in the hands of what he described as an ‘awful’ administration and it absolutely terrified him. He just didn’t trust them one bit.’

According to sources, the Prince (pictured at Balmoral Castle) thought it was 'absolutely extraordinary' that neither the Americans nor those in authority in the UK ever seemed to listen to the Arab perspective

According to sources, the Prince (pictured at Balmoral Castle) thought it was ‘absolutely extraordinary’ that neither the Americans nor those in authority in the UK ever seemed to listen to the Arab perspective

The Prince, according to sources, maintained it was ‘absolutely extraordinary’ that neither the Americans nor those in authority in the UK ever seemed to listen to the Arab perspective or consider their knowledge of Iraq and its religious and tribal complexities when seeking postwar solutions there.

Ignoring their perspective, the Prince felt, was fatal and had led to what he described as ‘the bewildering mess we are facing now at home and abroad’.

One former member of the Prince’s household divulged that Charles was completely baffled by Bush and his stance in totally ignoring the advice of local leaders.

‘The Prince could not understand the sense in America’s position,’ the source said, ‘which was a need to revisit the ‘crazy’ de-Baathifican policy (sacking professionals who were members of Saddam Hussein’s B’aath party) that had led to the exclusion of so many badly needed professional people throughout Iraqi society and turned so many people against the coalition.’

Charles, the source said, was particularly derogatory about Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice — the first black woman to hold that post — and the extent of what he deemed U.S. ignorance of the Middle East. The Prince couldn’t fathom why Ms Rice resisted all requests to visit the area.

And some of her statements left him cold, such as: ‘The people of the Middle East share the desire for freedom. 

We have an opportunity — and an obligation — to help them turn this desire into reality.’

‘But what does that actually mean and how on earth were they going to implement it?’ he would question.

In the Prince’s view, the only way proper democracy will ever be achieved in Iraq, and the West will stand any chance of winning the war on terror is by dealing with the ‘real toxin’ infecting the whole world: the Israel– Palestine question.

He maintains that the West must also focus on education and resisting what he believes is a ‘terrible distortion’ of Islam and how it is perceived.

Only then, he believes —when the wider world embraces the real Islam, combined with a serious collaborative effort to find a workable solution to the Israel–Palestine question — will the rage that drives the war on terror start to wane.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at a gala concert at Buckingham Palace in London to mark the Prince's 70th birthday

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at a gala concert at Buckingham Palace in London to mark the Prince’s 70th birthday

The lack of a realistic and satisfactory solution to the Israel–Palestine problem, in his view, is the fundamental reason for the hostility and all the ‘pent-up poison’ throughout the Islamic world.

‘I have heard him [Charles] say time and again: ‘Remove the poison and you remove the cause of so much of the terrorism,’ the close source said.

It is the Prince’s core belief on the issue, the source added.

A regular and welcome visitor to the Gulf States today, the Prince enjoys close ties with the ruling houses, which include some of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies.

Charles sees part of his role, whenever he visits the region, to make these rulers, so often ignored by the superpower U.S., feel how valued they are to Britain and how important that long-standing relationship is.

Charles’s Arab sympathies have led him to be accused of being anti-Jewish and anti-American. 

Perhaps that is one reason why it was his son William, not he, who was chosen by the Queen and the Foreign Office to make the historic first official royal visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian West Bank in June this year while his father stayed at home.

William would have consulted his father before making the visit, but surely Charles, not William, should have been the one to go?

Positive headlines flowed from the moment William touched down in the region. He was predictably dubbed ‘peacemaker’ in the headlines and there is little doubt he should be lauded for his deft diplomacy.

Inevitably, he found himself being drawn into the complex politics of the region and asked to act as a peace envoy when Israel’s president asked him to take a message of hope to the Palestinian premier.

British officials immediately stepped in and insisted that was not William’s role, but hoped his landmark visit to the Jewish state and the occupied Palestinian West Bank would act as a catalyst, highlighting the need to kickstart a long-stalled peace process in the world’s most intractable dispute.

His visit sparked a call for peace from Israel to Palestine’s president Mahmoud Abbas and placed the second in line to the throne into the role of statesman.

The Prince of Wales’s well-known public views on Islam and Arab friendships probably disqualified him from the role of peacemaker. 

According to one former member of the Prince's household Charles was completely baffled by Bush and his stance in totally ignoring the advice of local leaders

According to one former member of the Prince’s household Charles was completely baffled by Bush and his stance in totally ignoring the advice of local leaders

Instead, while William was predictably winning plaudits from the travelling British press, Charles was left to ponder back home, carrying out official duties such as bestowing a knighthood on Barry Gibb, the only surviving member of the Bee Gees.

Was this a missed opportunity for Charles to be appreciated as a world statesman and the peacemaker he undoubtedly is? Or was it an example of a dissident Prince not having an opportunity because his views on the issue were too widely known?

Was he seen by the Foreign Office as too much of an Arabist to achieve the best results?

The Prince has, after all, never shied away from espousing his views. He is careful what he says in the speeches he writes with his reams of edits.

Privately, Charles disagrees with the bans imposed in France and Belgium on Muslim women covering their faces with burqas and niqabs, seeing it as ‘an infringement of human rights’, which criminalises women rather than challenging the custom.

He has made it clear to ministers, too, that he no longer wishes to be used to promote British arms in Gulf States.

But anti-Jewish? That is certainly not his intention or his position.

Charles’s lack of trust of the U.S. is a recurring theme. He is not only critical of their lack of a coherent Middle East policy, but deeply concerned by their refusal to sign up to any international convention on climate change — a stance made even worse by the current incumbent in the White House, President Donald Trump.

The Prince is also ‘horrified’ by U.S. agri-industrial activities — the appalling animal welfare and environmental consequences of the cattle-feed-lot system.

Charles believes the vast industrial-scale output of chemical-dependent and government-subsidised corn, which leads to economic surplus and is then turned into every conceivable form of fast food, is leading to an ever-growing health crisis in the USA in the form of obesity and related problems.

The rapidly increasing rates of diabetes make his ‘hair stand on end’, as does the huge lobbying power of the gigantic corporations and fast-food companies.

‘The Prince,’ one of his circle told me, ‘finds the U.S. society — which in his view contains a ‘worryingly large element’ of born-again evangelical, fundamentalist Christians for whom the Old Testament seems more important than the New, and who take it literally — deeply worrying.’

One area he will no longer be drawn into is arms sales to the Gulf states.

This is despite his previous forays into this area.

Back in 1994, he defended his appearance at the Dubai arms fair on the basis that he was boosting British trade, arguing — without much conviction — that the arms would probably be used as a deterrent, and that if the UK didn’t sell them someone else would. 

Since then he has had a complete volte-face, and heaven help the royal aide who suggests slipping in such an engagement these days. 

Today he is determined to use his personal relationships with the Arab leaders in the Gulf to the greater good.

Closer to home, Charles is concerned about the rising level of knife crime and violence on the streets of London, which he believes is linked to the failures of developers and council planners.

He thinks they have failed to grasp, whether deliberately or through ignorance, that crime and the architecture of a neighbourhood are intrinsically connected.

London, Charles believes, is a unique ‘city of villages’ that is now under assault from ‘faceless’ towers, and ‘poorly conceived’ mega-developments.

And he thinks that what developers, architects and city planners should be doing instead is taking their inspiration from traditional mansion blocks, no more than three storeys high, as well as from classic Georgian and Victorian squares and crescents.

At the very least, he told me, it’s important to keep the city’s squares intact.

By their very design, he said, people get to know their neighbours and ultimately develop a sense of community and responsibility for the people within it.

As a consequence, people living in squares end up largely policing themselves.

He has spoken at length about this to London’s Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, but to no avail: ‘I can’t seem to get through to him,’ he told me. 

ADAPTED from Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes And Dreams by Robert Jobson, published by John Blake on November 1 at £20. © Robert Jobson 2018.

To order a copy for £16 (offer valid to November 4, 2018; P&P free), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640.

Fury over scuttling beloved Britannia

Prince Charles still keenly misses the royal yacht, which was decommissioned in 1997.

In April this year, just after he’d paid an official visit to the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, he told me: ‘Imagine what it would be like coming into [Vanuatu] harbour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, with all the small craft to greet us.’

The yacht, he feels, was an important part of the process of trying to represent Britain abroad — ‘entirely motivated by a desperate desire to put the “Great” back into Great Britain’, as he puts it.

Prince Charles still keenly misses the royal yacht, which was decommissioned in 1997. The yacht, he feels, was an important part of the process of trying to represent Britain abroad

Prince Charles still keenly misses the royal yacht, which was decommissioned in 1997. The yacht, he feels, was an important part of the process of trying to represent Britain abroad

It had unusual pulling power, we agreed. Inviting powerful business leaders to a swanky restaurant might result in a handful of takers — but invite them to the yacht and every one of them would show up.

He pointed out that on his 2018 Australian tour he’d convened a round-table meeting with big-business CEOs to examine the challenges faced by the world’s ocean reefs. 

Yet senior representatives from Australia’s mining industry had failed to show up, and other industry leaders had sent more junior executives to represent them.

Charles was clearly a little peeved, reflecting that this wouldn’t have happened if the meeting had been aboard Britannia. Whenever she was due in port, the British Ambassador — who advised on invitations — was suddenly the most popular person in the entire country, he said.

‘Sadly, the Treasury did not seem to think [the yacht was important],’ he reflected. ‘And, what’s more, the Royal Navy didn’t want to pay to staff it, either.’

He clearly approves of Boris Johnson’s call to commission a new royal yacht, backed by private investment.

As a floating embassy-cum-trade platform, it would be a statement of serious intent, he believes.

‘Blair and Brown . . . and the Treasury simply wouldn’t have it, so there we are,’ he added, with an air of resignation.

 He talks to the dead…to keep their spirits alive 

Both Charles and the Queen are consumed by the Irish political situation and are known to talk about it privately for hours — in minute detail.

The Queen is known to have an almost obsessive interest in the subject.

‘She is a bit of an anorak about Ireland,’ said one former member of the Royal Household. ‘She has found many a government minister wanting when she has challenged them on a particular aspect of the peace process or Irish history.’

As for Charles, he avidly reads anything he can on Irish history and the resolution of the ‘Troubles’.

Both Prince Charles and the Queen (Pictured in family photo at Buckingham Palace in 1972) are known to talk about the Irish political situation for hours ¿ in minute detail. The Queen is known to have an almost obsessive interest in the subject

Both Prince Charles and the Queen (Pictured in family photo at Buckingham Palace in 1972) are known to talk about the Irish political situation for hours — in minute detail. The Queen is known to have an almost obsessive interest in the subject

He dreamed of being able to cross from Northern Ireland into the Irish republic — though he honestly believed that no member of the royal family would be permitted to do so within his lifetime.

The speed of the peace process has meant that his cherished ambition has been realised.

In his view, his mother’s historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in April 2011 was the crowning moment of her reign, her lasting achievement. 

Whenever he has been asked directly what he believes the Queen’s greatest legacy will be, he does not say, as some might expect, her role as Head of the Commonwealth but, unequivocally, ‘Ireland.’

He believes her visit set the seal on the full normalisation of Anglo-Irish relations, and the warm response to her speech at a state banquet at Dublin Castle showed that she had pulled off one of the most successful state visits of her reign.

Even Gerry Adams, the face and voice of the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Féin, lauded the Queen for her ‘genuine’ expression of sympathy for victims of Ireland’s troubled past.

Praising a British monarch is something Adams probably never thought he would ever do, but those four days in spring 2011 were of immense symbolic significance in showing that Britain and Ireland were, as she said in her speech, ‘more than just neighbours’.

The most significant moment came on the first day of her visit, when she bowed her head — in respect to those who died for Irish independence — after laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.

After all, she had lost members of her family, too, not least her cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten and one of his twin grandsons, Nicholas (aged 14), and local boy Paul Maxwell (who was 15), who were killed when a bomb planted by the IRA exploded on their leisure boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, on August 27, 1979.

Another passenger, the Dowager Lady Brabourne, aged 83, died from her injuries the day after the attack.

Prince Charles was devoted to Lord Louis, his mentor and great-uncle and one of the most influential figures in his early life. 

Understandably, the Prince was profoundly affected by his murder. At the time he said that it ‘made me want to die, too’.

To this day, in quieter, solitary moments, he talks to his departed loved ones, and in that way keeps Mountbatten and many other dearly departed spirits alive in his heart.

Just over three years ago, Charles made a pilgrimage to the spot overlooking the bay where his great-uncle was assassinated. Surrounding him was a small knot of well-wishers and villagers, for whom memories of that tragic day were also painful.

‘It’s been a long time,’ Charles whispered to one of them, referring to his long-held desire to visit the spot.

‘I never thought it would happen.’

Later, he told an audience in the nearby town of Sligo: ‘At the time, I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss.

‘Through this dreadful experience, I now understand in a profound way the agonies borne by others on these islands — of whatever faith or political persuasion.’

 Prince Charles’ fury with Labour government’s decision to scrap his beloved Royal Yacht Britannia

Prince Charles still keenly misses the royal yacht, which was decommissioned in 1997.

In April this year, just after he’d paid an official visit to the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, he told me: ‘Imagine what it would be like coming into [Vanuatu] harbour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, with all the small craft to greet us.’

The yacht, he feels, was an important part of the process of trying to represent Britain abroad — ‘entirely motivated by a desperate desire to put the “Great” back into Great Britain’, as he puts it.

It had unusual pulling power, we agreed. Inviting powerful business leaders to a swanky restaurant might result in a handful of takers — but invite them to the yacht and every one of them would show up.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave Gibraltar on the Royal Yacht Britannia for their honeymoon cruise in 1981. Prince Charles still keenly misses the royal yacht, which was decommissioned in 1997

Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave Gibraltar on the Royal Yacht Britannia for their honeymoon cruise in 1981. Prince Charles still keenly misses the royal yacht, which was decommissioned in 1997

He pointed out that on his 2018 Australian tour he’d convened a round-table meeting with big-business CEOs to examine the challenges faced by the world’s ocean reefs. 

Yet senior representatives from Australia’s mining industry had failed to show up, and other industry leaders had sent more junior executives to represent them.

Charles was clearly a little peeved, reflecting that this wouldn’t have happened if the meeting had been aboard Britannia. 

Whenever she was due in port, the British Ambassador — who advised on invitations — was suddenly the most popular person in the entire country, he said.

Whenever she was due in port, the British Ambassador ¿ who advised on invitations ¿ was suddenly the most popular person in the entire country, he said

Whenever she was due in port, the British Ambassador — who advised on invitations — was suddenly the most popular person in the entire country, he said

He clearly approves of Boris Johnson¿s call to commission a new royal yacht, backed by private investment

He clearly approves of Boris Johnson’s call to commission a new royal yacht, backed by private investment

‘Sadly, the Treasury did not seem to think [the yacht was important],’ he reflected. ‘And, what’s more, the Royal Navy didn’t want to pay to staff it, either.’

He clearly approves of Boris Johnson’s call to commission a new royal yacht, backed by private investment.

As a floating embassy-cum-trade platform, it would be a statement of serious intent, he believes.

‘Blair and Brown . . . and the Treasury simply wouldn’t have it, so there we are,’ he added, with an air of resignation.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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