Current and former British military commanders have accused the Duke of Sussex of ‘giving ammunition’ to Iran’s propaganda machine and exploiting his military career for financial gain.
In response to UK criticism of its execution of Alireza Akbari, 61, at the weekend, Tehran said Britain was ‘in no position to preach’ on human rights after the prince’s recent admission about killing Taliban in his memoir Spare.
One commander said Harry had ‘rendered himself a tool for the Tehran regime’ while a colonel who served in Afghanistan said Harry should take responsibility for allowing Iran to compare its murder of a political opponent with lawful deaths in armed conflict.
Prince Harry has been heavily criticised for confessing to killing 25 members of the Taliban after Iran used him to defend its hanging of a British-Iranian citizen
Colonel Richard Kemp (pictured), a former UK military commander in Afghanistan said Harry had played into Tehran’s hands
The Iranian regime has used Prince Harry’s confession that he killed 25 Taliban in Afghanistan to take aim at Britain amid the escalating row over the execution of Alireza Akbari (above)
To the disappointment of many former colleagues and military commanders, the prince chose to reveal his personal tally of enemies accounted for.
He also described dehumanising his opponents on the battlefield, thinking of them as ‘chess pieces’ who needed removing ‘from the board’, rather than human beings.
Iran exploited Harry’s remarks after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described Mr Akbari’s hanging, after being accused of being an MI6 spy, as a ‘callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime’.
Yesterday Iran’s Foreign Ministry fired back, tweeting: ‘The British regime, whose Royal Family member sees the killing of 25 people innocent people as the removal of chess pieces and has no regrets over the issue, and those who turn a blind eye to a war crime, are in no position to preach to others on human rights.’
Just days before his death Mr Akbari is thought to have been severely beaten in jail before he gave what appeared to be forced confessions.
In an audio message broadcast on the BBC’s Persian service he said he was tortured to make him admit to crimes he did not commit.
His Iranian captors described him as ‘one of the most important agents of the British intelligence service in Iran’.
Former Royal Navy commander Rear Admiral Chris Parry agreed, suggesting the prince had effectively rendered himself a tool for the Tehran regime
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former UK military commander in Afghanistan said Harry had played into Tehran’s hands.
He said: ‘Harry should take full responsibility for giving ammunition to the murderous Iranian regime’s propaganda machine.
‘While all decent people will reject Iran’s lies, many of their supporters will be strengthened by the ayatollahs’ exploitation of the duke’s ill-judged comments.’
Former Royal Navy commander Rear Admiral Chris Parry agreed, suggesting the prince had effectively rendered himself a tool for the Tehran regime.
He said: ‘The Iranians are using him for propaganda purposes. Despite the clumsy words by Prince Harry, it is highly duplicitous to claim equivalence between the lawful killing of combatants in warfare and a show-trial and political murder by a dictatorial regime.’
Prince Harry spent five months fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2012-13 as a gunner aboard an Apache attack helicopter.
The Army Air Corps AH-64 was equipped with Hellfire missiles and a 30mm cannon capable of eviscerating and persons in its path.
Harry’s kills were recorded by a camera fixed to the helicopter’s undercarriage. He also described watching the footage to tot up how many dead Taliban he was responsible for.
In the summer of 2021, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan with a lighting offensive that swept across the country in a matter of weeks
The admission brought widespread condemnation from military figures and fears of retaliation by militant supporters.
Downing Street insisted the execution of Mr Akbari and the prince’s remarks about his experiences in Afghanistan were separate issues.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Nobody should be in any doubt the execution of Alizera Akbari was a barbaric and politically motivated act with no legitimacy.
‘Any comparisons between that and servicemen and women carrying out legitimate actions would be entirely false.’
Following Iran’s exploitation of the prince’s remarks, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith said he hoped Harry ‘would reflect on that and not do something similar again’.
He added: ‘Iran criticising us on human rights grounds would be a joke if it wasn’t for the fact that they are maniacal, brutal, violent and dangerous.’
Former Defence Minister Alex Shelbrooke said: ‘I think Harry’s words were unwise. Everyone is aware of the job military personnel do. They don’t then seek to exploit that for their financial gain.’
Tory MP Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, added: ‘We will take no lectures from a terrorist state which weaponises human life, and industrialises hostage taking.
‘Its rape and murder of innocent women demanding the end to their subjugation is heinous.’
And former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the comparison was ‘absurd’.
‘It shows the Iranians realise how badly they have behaved. The attempt to compare it with British troops, at the request of the Afghan government, fighting to protect Afghan democracy, is an absurd comparison by any standards,’ he told the Mail.
‘It’s an attempt at cheap propaganda that won’t convince even Iranians, never mind people in this country.’