Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced Thursday, in front of reporters gathered at the U.N. for the General Assembly, that ISIS militants captured in Iraq have disclosed a top-secret plot to attack subway systems in the U.S. and France. U.S. officials don’t seem too worried.
“Today, while I am here, I am receiving accurate reports from Baghdad where there was [the] arrest of [a] few elements, and there are networks planning from inside Iraq to have attacks,” Abadi said. “I asked for more credible information. I asked for names. I asked for details, for cities, you know, dates,” he continued. “And from the details I have received, yes, it looks credible.”
American officials, however, told NBC there isn’t much evidence behind the statement. One called it a “total bunk.” New York City’s transit system has occasionally surfaced as potential target, unsurprisingly, but authorities were never able to attach a concrete threat to it. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that they “have not confirmed such a plot.” According to Reuters, the NYPD is cooperating with federal agencies to assess any potential dangers.
Why pump up this apparently flimsy claim to reporters rather than quietly going through intelligence officials? Iraq appears to be incapable of combating ISIS on its own, and is relying heavily on Kurdish forces and international aid — from the U.S., mainly — to keep the militants at bay. (The country’s army famously fled Mosul as ISIS fighters approached.) Most likely, in publicizing these concerns, Abadi is hoping to whip up continued support for America bombing ISIS targets abroad.