NEW YORK – Iraq has “credible” intelligence that Islamic State militants plan terrorist attacks on subway systems in the United States and France, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday, but U.S. intelligence and other officials said they are not aware of any such plot.
“Today, while I’m here, I’m receiving accurate reports from Baghdad that there was arrests of a few elements, and there are networks planning from inside Iraq to have attacks,” Abadi said. “They plan to have attacks in the metros of Paris and the U.S.”
Iraqi intelligence agencies informed Abadi on Thursday about what he described as an active plot by foreigners, including French and American citizens, who are fighting as part of the Islamic State group. Abadi made the remarks during an interview on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly.
Abadi said he had requested further information. The intelligence assessment was being shared with U.S. and French officials, he said. Abadi said he did not know whether the planned attacks were imminent.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the United States has “not confirmed any specific threats against the United States” by the Islamic State group. “So we want to review information from the Iraqis and seek to corroborate that.”
“We would certainly take seriously any information they’re learning as they have ISIL operatives detained or as they reclaim territory that ISIL may have controlled,” he said, using one of the acronyms by which the Islamic State is known. “We will follow leads based on the information we’re provided.”
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss threat assessments, said they do not have information about plans for such terror attacks.
President Obama led a U.N. Security Council session Wednesday focused on the particular threat posed by radicalized Americans and others who travel to Iraq or Syria to fight and could easily return to their home countries to carry out attacks. The council approved new rules intended to stop those suspected of traveling to join militants in battle or attempting to return home from conflict zones.
Much of the U.S.-led military and diplomatic strategy to counter the militants in Iraq rests on Abadi, who took office just weeks ago. A Shiite, he has pledged to share power and resources with Sunnis and Kurds and strengthen the country’s internal defense forces while sending the Iraqi army to fight the militants.
Abadi told a small group of reporters Thursday that he is committed to decentralizing power from Baghdad, but he took a hard line against Kurdish demands for what he called an unfair share of national oil revenue. He indicated that he would like to renegotiate an oil agreement with the government of the semiautonomous Kurdish region.
Abadi also said that while U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq are crucial to defeating the militants, he will not cede full authority to the United States.
“I have raised the issue of the sovereignty of Iraq” in discussion with U.S. and other leaders, Abadi said. “We don’t want to happen in Iraq what happened in Yemen and Pakistan.”
The United States has long-running drone operations against terrorism targets in both of those countries. The U.S. operations are highly unpopular, especially among Pakistanis, and are seen by many as an infringement of national sovereignty.
Targeting of terrorists should be coordinated with Iraq, Abadi said, and the air campaign should be “short and decisive.”
Greg Miller and Adam Goldman in Washington contributed to this report.