Report   DETAILS


Iraq 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Baghdad

Near East > Iraq; Near East > Iraq > Baghdad

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Baghdad does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BAGHDAD AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Baghdad-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Crime statistics and crime reporting mechanisms are incomplete and inconsistent. The vast majority of individuals under contract with, or employed by, the U.S. government in Iraq are required to travel with a protective security detail (PSD), thereby limiting potential criminal threats against them.

Cybersecurity Issues

Iraq lacks strong government standards and regulations regarding cybersecurity. Local professional expertise in the field of cybersecurity is limited.

Other Areas of Concern

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. Department of State guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of PSDs. Many U.S. and third-country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, they do so under restricted movement conditions and often with security advisors and protective security teams. Detailed security information is available on the U.S. Embassy website.

The International Zone (IZ) is a restricted access area. Iraqi authorities are responsible for control of the IZ. Travelers to the IZ should be aware that Iraqi authorities may require special identification to enter the IZ or may issue IZ-specific access badges.

It is highly recommended that all travel to areas controlled ISIS be avoided.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions are reasonably good, and roads are generally well constructed. Urban roads are usually constructed of asphalt; rural roads are typically constructed of dirt and gravel. Flooding is common in the winter, as many roads do not have proper drainage systems. 

Vehicle security checkpoints and dense urban populations often cause significant traffic congestion. There are numerous government security checkpoints throughout Baghdad; however, in late 2016, the Baghdad Operations Center reduced the number of checkpoints in the city. 

Public Transportation Conditions

Poorly maintained city transit vehicles are often involved in accidents. City buses run irregularly and frequently change routes. Long-distance buses are available but are often in poor condition and drive at unsafe speeds. Train infrastructure is largely inadequate.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that U.S. civil aviation flying in Iraqi airspace is at risk from ongoing combat operations involving military forces (military aerial combat operations and other militarily-related activity) and militant groups. As a result, the FAA prohibits U.S. civil aviation from operating in or overflying Iraqi airspace with very limited exceptions. Foreign airlines operating in Iraq may cancel their operations without warning due to the security environment or other factors. Travelers should remain vigilant and reconfirm all flight schedules with their airline prior to commencing any travel.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BAGHDAD AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Foreign and indigenous terrorist groups remain capable of conducting deadly attacks throughout the country and continue to be a threat to expatriate personnel and visitors. Indigenous terrorist groups are responsible for the majority of attacks in Iraq. These groups are largely identified by their religious or political affiliations. ISIS (Sunni), Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades (Shia), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) (Shia), and Kata’ib Hizballah (KH) (Shia) are considered indigenous organizations, although all receive significant monetary and logistical support from international sources.

Foreign fighters from Sunni militia/terrorist organizations are involved in the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq. These fighters constitute a significant portion of ISIS’s elite combatant corps and are disproportionately represented in its leadership. Iranian influence over Shia militant groups in Iraq is well documented.

The dramatic collapse in 2014 of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in the northern and western provinces and the rapid advance of ISIS fighters across roughly a third of Iraq’s territory led to a dramatic increase in violence and the displacement of over three million people. Ongoing combat operations to expel ISIS from Iraq have also contributed to thousands of Iraqis becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly around the Mosul area where the battle to recapture the city began in late 2016. As of the end of January 2017, the ISF had recaptured eastern Mosul.

In 2016, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) recorded at least 5,545 civilian deaths and 11,488 injuries. Many deaths and injuries were due to the war against ISIS. The total number of security incidents according to host nation and open source reporting included 2,072 improvised explosive devices (including vehicle borne and magnetic), 253 kidnappings, and 3,689 small arms incidents. The casualty figures according to Iraqi government sources included 3,220 civilians killed and 6,853 civilians wounded.

The threat of kidnapping, rocket attacks, improvised explosive devices, and small-arms fire against official and private U.S. interests remains high and is subject to the influence of domestic, political, regional, and international developments. Iranian-backed Shia militias have targeted U.S. interests and retain the capability to do so. There have been reports of militia groups kidnapping locals, foreign workers, and members of international organizations and requesting a ransom from families or employers.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Based on recent history and events, anti-American/anti-Western sentiment exists throughout Iraq and is manifested in commentary in print, television, and social media. In Shi’a-majority areas under strong Iranian influence, anti-American banners are sometimes spotted. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BAGHDAD AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Political violence in the form of protests occurs throughout Iraq, especially in Baghdad and Basrah. Protests can be over work conditions and wages, regional sectarian divisions, and political corruption. While protests are generally non-violent, some have resulted in property damage, injuries, and deaths. Protests tend to increase in numbers and intensity coinciding with major events in the region.

Civil unrest continues. Religious and political rallies can attract thousands of participants. Most protests are peaceful and a consequence of internal political/economic factors. Political and religious marches and rallies are a popular target for ISIS and other militants. Movement throughout the country can be restricted due to pilgrimages, which occur throughout the year primarily to Shia holy sites.

In April and May 2016, protestors associated with Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the IZ, occupying Parliament and other government facilities. This led to the closing of roadways through the IZ that had just been opened to public traffic. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Iraq’s environment is harsh. Temperatures can fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Dust storms, which can reduce visibility and impede aircraft, occur frequently during the spring. Heavy fog, often lasting for hours, is common in the winter.

Critical Infrastructure

The Mosul Dam is a major concern for Iraq. A failure or breach in the dam would result in a major catastrophe. Since late 2016, repair work on the dam has been ongoing, supported by the military coalition and international community. 

Economic Concerns

Iraq has limited capability to enforce intellectual property rights. 

Privacy Concerns

Iraq has limited capability to enforce privacy laws. Police and security services have broad authority to search and monitor residences and businesses.

Personal Identity Concerns

Incidents of ethnic and sectarian violence remain frequent in Iraq. The majority of these events occur in mixed-sect neighborhoods.

Drug-related Crimes

Like most organized crime in Iraq, drug trafficking is often linked to militant groups and militias and can, therefore, result in violent acts.   

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnappings for political or monetary gain are common. The threat of kidnapping by ISIS, militia groups, or criminal gangs is extremely high.

Police Response

Police and military units have the ability to respond to security incidents, terrorist attacks, and criminal activities. Iraqi security forces maintain a large presence in most major urban areas to limit potential terrorist, insurgent, and militia activity. Military checkpoints and security stations are manned at all times; temporary checkpoints are often set up without advance notice.

Visitors and expatriates should carry proper identification to avoid harassment and delays at checkpoints.

All personnel are subject to Iraqi law. Visitors and expatriates should avoid unauthorized photography. Photos of Iraqi security forces and checkpoints are strictly prohibited. Iraqi military personnel may confiscate equipment and temporarily detain individuals taking unauthorized photographs. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Visitors and expatriates should cooperate and follow instructions if approached by Iraqi security personnel. The Embassy is limited in the assistance it can provide in the event of police detention or harassment.

Crime Victim Assistance

Victims of crime should notify the U.S. Embassy by contacting American Citizen Services via e-mail or via phone at 0770-443-1286 (from Iraq) or 011-964-770-443-1286 (from the U.S.).

Police/Security Agencies

Responsibility for routine policing functions falls under the Ministry of Interior. In recent years, the Iraqi Federal Police have transformed into a paramilitary security force, with less emphasis on law enforcement.  

Medical Emergencies

Most hospitals and emergency medical services do not meet U.S. standards. Local hospitals have substandard staffing, equipment, and may not carry basic medicines. Individuals associated with private businesses are responsible for arranging their own medical care. Iraqi hospitals should be utilized only as a contingency for urgent life or death emergencies.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

A list of doctors and hospitals can be obtained from American Citizen Services (ACS) via e-mail. For security reasons, the names of organizations and individuals are not posted on the Embassy’s American Citizen Services website.

Insurance Guidance

Serious illnesses/injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated where adequate medical attention is available. Such medevac services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay for the service in advance. The cost for medical evacuation may range from U.S. $40,000 to $200,000.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Iraq.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Baghdad Country Council currently meets quarterly and has approximately 200 members. Additionally, you can contact BaghdadOSAC@state.gov for information or to join the mailing list. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy is located in the IZ in Baghdad on the Tigris River.

U.S. Embassy – Baghdad
Al Kindi Street
Baghdad, Iraq

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard: 0760-030-3000
Callers after regular business hours will receive recorded instructions in English and Arabic. For questions regarding visas and passports, we ONLY accept inquiries by e-mail.
Consular Affairs (American Citizen Services 24-Hour Emergency Line): 0770-443-1286 (from Iraq) or 011-964-770-443-1286 (from the U.S.) or Baghdadacs@state.gov.
Regional Security Office Tactical Operations Center (TOC) (24 hrs.): 0760-030-2833 (from Iraq local cell/landline) or 001-301-985-8841 ext. 2833/3343 (from the U.S.)
Foreign Commercial Service: Office: baghdad@trade.gov.
Website: http://iraq.usembassy.gov

Nearby Posts

Consulate Basrah: http://basrah.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Erbil: http://erbil.usconsulate.gov/ 

Embassy Guidance

Please review Consular Affairs’ current Alerts and Warnings before traveling to Iraq.

If you are going to reside in or visit Iraq, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your presence in-country. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. To enroll your stay or visit, refer to STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program).

Additional Resources

Iraq Country Information Sheet