Waiting to be king of Iraq

THE MAN who would be king of Iraq lives in an impeccable five-bedroom flat in West London, which is crammed full of family memories in the form of sepia photographs of his ancestors. The effect can be quite dazzling, like stepping into a shop specialising in silver photo-frames.

These mementoes are the nearest Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein has come to his native Baghdad since he was two. He is now 38. 'I have only vague memories really, childhood memories, from that time', when his cousin Faisal II, the last King of Iraq, was shot dead by pan-Arabist officers in the gardens of the Royal Palace in Baghdad. The subsequent atrocities constituted one of the bloodiest revolutions in the history of the region. The family of Sharif Ali sought refuge in the Saudi embassy, fled to lead a peripatetic existence in various European capitals, ended up in exile in Beirut and left for London during the civil war in the 1970s.

The movement for a restoration of the monarchy surfaced in London last year as a way of bringing the various factions of Iraq together for the day Saddam Hussein is overthrown. Over the past six months, as the exiled opposition to President Saddam's rule has proved increasingly fragmented, Sharif Ali and his supporters have been 'coming out'.

Sharif Ali has a degree in development economics from Essex University. His interests are history and sport (he is a keen tennis player and windsurfer); he drives a BMW and is a member of one of London's most exclusive dining clubs. He does not drink or smoke; nor does his wife, Lina, a Shia of a noble family from Kerbala. His children attend a private English school and receive Arabic tuition at home.

Humility, neutrality and faultless manners are his stock in trade. He is raising his public profile now, he says, because of 'public demand'. This year he will quicken the monarchist pace by visiting Arab capitals. He hopes to beam radio and television speeches into Iraq.

How long will it take until he is on the throne? 'Anywhere from tomorrow to five years. It's a difficult one to call. A traditional coup is out of the question. Saddam has had 25 years to prepare for that day. The military will be the instrument of removal. But we need a culmination of a broadly based effort. The role I would accept is that of a constitutional monarch. I would be the guardian of the constitution.' Yet he 'wouldn't shirk' from playing a more active political role at first.

Would his leadership be inspired by that of any other monarch? 'It's not that monarchs are better than other statesmen, so I probably wouldn't pick on a monarch as inspiration. I'd probably pick on a head of state.' Which one? 'It's a difficult one to call. De Gaulle, I guess.'

Sharif Ali would probably not take up residence where the last king lived and died. The Rihab Palace was turned into a prison and torture chamber, known as the Qasr el-Nyhayiatt (Palace of the End).

For the time being he is keeping his powder dry. During the photography session, he displayed good humour and I thanked him for being patient. The reply: 'I have to be.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee