IRAQ August 30, 2010 THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the dangers inherent in travel to Iraq and recommends against all but essential travel to the country given the fluid security situation. Despite improvements in the security environment relative to prior years, Iraq remains dangerous and unpredictable. Foreign nationals and their facilities, as well as Government of Iraq officials and buildings continue to be targeted. Such attacks can occur at any time. Kidnappings still occur, with the most recent kidnapping of a U.S. citizen occurring in January 2010. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), and mines are placed on roads, concealed in plastic bags, boxes, soda cans, dead animals, and in other places to blend with the road. Suicide attacks continue to occur. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses and placed on vehicles at intersections, particularly in crowded areas. Rockets and mortars have been fired at hotels and at the International Zone, and vehicle-borne IEDs have been used against targets throughout the country. U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to certain areas of the country due to prevailing security conditions. When traveling outside the International Zone and outside secure facilities, U.S. Government personnel are required to be escorted by a personal security detail at all times. The Embassy has also directed U.S. Government personnel traveling within the International Zone to be accompanied by at least one other person and to carry a radio or cell phone.
Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Travelers are also referred to the U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Warden Notices, which are available on the U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s website. Detailed security information is available on the U.S. Embassy Baghdad's website and on the U.S. Central Command's website.
There is nobody better at protecting you than yourself. Travelers are urged to take personal responsibility for their own safety. Take some time before travel to improve your personal security—things are not the same everywhere as they are in the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: The U.S. Government is supporting Iraqi authorities to strengthen law enforcement and civil structures throughout the country. A recent trend of complex attacks involving small arms fire, suicide bombers, and/or Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) to conduct criminal acts such as the robbing of financial facilities and markets indicates that travelers should exercise caution at these venues. Petty theft is common in Iraq, including thefts of money, jewelry, or valuable items left in hotel rooms and pick-pocketing in busy places such as markets. Carjacking by armed thieves is very common, even during daylight hours, and particularly on the highways from Jordan and Kuwait to Baghdad. Foreigners, especially dual American-Iraqi citizens, and Iraqi citizens are targets of kidnapping. The kidnappers often demand money but have also carried out kidnappings for political/religious reasons. Many hostages have been killed.
In 2005, Iraqi citizens adopted a new constitution and participated in national parliamentary elections to create a permanent, democratic government, and in May 2006, a new Government of Iraq (GOI), led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was sworn in. In late January 2009, Iraqi citizens elected new members for a majority of provincial councils. A bilateral security agreement, which came into effect on January 1, 2009, now governs the presence of U.S. Forces in the country. The United States also signed a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, which governs all bilateral relations in general. On March 7, 2010, Iraqi citizens participated in a new round of parliamentary elections. Former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s al-Iraqiyya party won 91 seats, with current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition party winning 89 seats. Following an April 2010 recount, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court certified the results without changes. Four months after the election, Iraq had not yet formed a new government, and both major parties were pursuing coalition arrangements.
The Government of Iraq (GOI) has made significant political, economic, and security progress in recent years, but Iraq still faces many challenges. Those challenges include overcoming three decades of war and government mismanagement that stunted Iraq's economy; sectarian and ethnic tensions that have slowed progress toward national reconciliation; and ongoing, albeit decreasing, criminal and terrorist violence. The decrease in the number of insurgent attacks and overall improvements in security have spurred new economic growth in Iraq. However, conditions in Iraq remain dangerous. While Iraqi security forces now take the lead in providing security, U.S. Forces – Iraq (USF-I) continue to assist and to train, equip, and advise Iraqi Security Forces. By the end of 2011, all USF-I personnel will withdraw from Iraq. The work week in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Iraq for additional information.