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tags: terraform aws

Terraform: Cannot delete entity, must delete policies first

Just one of those day-to-day things that you come across, fix, forget; then come across again and wish you wrote it down. Search online and you’ll get a bunch of results for getting this error whilst trying to delete an IAM User via terraform Cannot delete entity, must delete policies first, the gist is basically you’re going to have to go via the CLI.

Here’s the official guide for deleting IAM users. But obviously thats not why I’m writing this post..


Long story short I think this is a bug in terraform. But here is a redacted version of the sort of manifest that I was trying to delete:

resource "aws_iam_user" "problem_service" {
  name = "problem-service-user-name"
  permissions_boundary = "arn:aws:iam::${var.account_id}:policy/my-team"

resource "aws_iam_access_key" "problem_service" {
  user = "${}"

output "problem_service_key_id" {
  value = "${}"

output "problem_service_key_secret" {
  value = "${aws_iam_access_key.problem_service.secret}"

data "aws_iam_policy_document" "problem-service" {
  statement {
    actions = [
    resources = [

resource "aws_iam_user_policy" "problem-service-user-name" {
  name   = "problem-service-user-name"
  user   = "${}"
  policy = "${data.aws_iam_policy_document.problem_service.json}"

Terraform would then complain with:

Error: Error deleting IAM User problem-service-user-name: DeleteConflict: Cannot delete entity, must delete policies first.
	status code: 409, request id: xxxxxxxxxx

Looking online tells you to get the role and delete in via CLI..

No such role!

In what was probably the most frustrating outcome possible, my first hurdle was what was mean to be the basic step - getting the role name.

$ aws iam list-roles | grep problem-service-user-name
$ aws iam list-roles | grep problem_service

Basically nothing worked. I ended up dumping the output to a file to look manually and still nothing. This did though:

$ aws iam list-users | grep problem-service-user-name

I would give you the output but I’ve deleted the account and closed that shell (oops). But now I know its a user I can modify the AWS guide a little:


Check you have a user

$ aws iam list-users | grep problem-service-user-name

Find attached policies

aws iam list-user-policies --user-name problem-service-user-name

Delete attached policies for user

$ aws iam delete-user-policy --user-name problem-service-user-name --policy-name problem-service-policy-name

Find attached keys

$ aws iam list-access-keys  --user-name problem-service-user-name

Delete attached keys for user

aws iam delete-access-key --access-key-id XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX --user-name problem-service-user-name

Delete the user

$ aws iam delete-user --user-name problem-service-user-name