Safety and Security
Violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist. U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at risk for kidnapping. Methods of attack in the past have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs, mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets, and shootings using various direct fire weapons. Numerous insurgent groups, including Al Qaida in Iraq, are increasingly active throughout Iraq. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operations against these groups continue, terrorist activity persists in many areas of the country. Sectarian and terrorist violence has increased since the beginning of 2013 in Iraq, most notably in the provinces of Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah adDin, Anbar, and Diyala.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the Embassy. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details. Detailed security information is available at the U.S. Embassy website.
Some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, in particular the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR).The security situation in the IKR,which includes the provinces of Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk, has been more stable relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but threats remain. U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security detail when traveling outside secure facilities. Although there have been significantly fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in the IKR than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the country remains dangerous.
U.S. citizens should avoid areas near the Syrian, Turkish and Iranian borders in northern Iraq.The Governments of Turkey and Iran continue to carry out military operations against insurgent groups in the mountain regions bordering Iraq. These operations have included troop movements and both aerial and artillery bombardments. Extensive unmarked minefields also remain along these borders. The unrest in Syria has resulted in large numbers of people seeking refuge in the area. In addition, borders in these areas are not always clearly defined. In 2009, three U.S. citizens were detained by Iranian authorities while hiking in the vicinity of the Iranian border in the IKR.The resources available to the U.S. Embassy to assist U.S. citizens who venture close to or cross the border with Iran are extremely limited. The Department of State discourages travel in close proximity to the Iranian border.