Matthew Tueller is the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, a post he has held since May 2019. He previously served as ambassador to Yemen and Kuwait. A native of Utah, Tueller is a career foreign service officer and is married with five children.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The State Department Said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller Was On ‘Previously Scheduled Travel’ During the Attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
When the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, was attacked by Iranian-backed protestors on Dec. 31, 2019, there were reports that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller had evacuated the massive, heavily guarded compound. But a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek on Dec. 31, 2019, that those reports were false. The spokesperson said Tueller was on “previously scheduled travel for a week” and was returning to Iraq amid growing tensions over the death of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds force. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 1.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is still on lockdown and U.S. citizens are advised to leave the country immediately. “Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy,” embassy officials said.
2. Iraq’s Parliament Voted on Sunday To Expel All U.S. Troops From Iraq
Iraq’s parliament voted on Sunday to expel all U.S. troops from Iraq after the death of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds force. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the founder and leader of the militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is legally a part of the Iraqi armed forces.
According to Just Security, “along with the strong condemnation of the U.S. attacks by the Government of Iraq, it is highly doubtful that the airstrikes were undertaken with Baghdad’s consent. As such, the United States has not only launched an armed attack on Iran, but in effect it has also attacked the Republic of Iraq.”
There are currently about 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq training Iraqi forces and fighting ISIS, also known as Daesh. Since the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, the troops are now focusing on protecting U.S. bases and personnel.
“Our first priority is protecting all Coalition personnel committed to the defeat of Daesh,” Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, which oversees all U.S. troops in Iraq, said in a statement. “Repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kata’ib Hezbollah have caused the death of Iraqi Security Forces personnel and a U.S. civilian. As a result we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops. This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review.
“We remain resolute as partners of the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people that have welcomed us into their country to help defeat ISIS. We remain ready to return our full attention and efforts back to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Daesh,” the statement said.
3. Matthew Tueller Is a Career Foreign Service Officer Who Previously Served As U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait and Yemen
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He joined the State Department in 1985.
According to his official State Department bio, his other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Yemen, Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman.
His Washington, D.C., assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.
“Our relationship with Iraq remains a critical one for the national security interests of the United States, and if confirmed I will do my utmost to advance U.S. interests there. However, let me stress from the outset that there will be no greater priority for me than the safety and security of all Americans residing in Iraq. As a diplomat who participated in the 2007-2008 ‘surge,’ I understand the importance of U.S. engagement in Iraq. The next several years will be crucial for Iraq as it struggles to recover from the trauma of ISIS and continues to actively confront a persistent ISIS threat. We stand ready to help as a trusted and valued partner,” Tueller said during his Senate confirmation hearing.
4. Matthew Tueller Graduated From Brigham Young University in Utah and Earned a Master of Public Policy From Harvard University
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller received a bachelor of arts from Brigham Young University in 1975. He took a year off to work in Spain as a Mormon missionary. He then earned a master of public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, according to his official State Department bio.
In the aftermath of the October 2000 terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, Tueller was made chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, overseeing the inter-agency investigation into the bombing, a task that kept him there until February 2001. He then served as political counselor at the embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He returned to Kuwait as deputy chief of mission from 2004 to 2007, and served as political minister counselor at the embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, from July 2007 to July 2008. More recently he was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where he served from August 2008 to May 2011, leaving several months after the Egyptian Revolution that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. That stint was a return to Cairo for Tueller, who was in Egypt taking advanced Arabic classes in October 1981 when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated and President Mubarak began his 29 years of rule, meaning that Tueller was present for both the beginning and the end of Mubarak’s rule.
His father, Blaine Tueller, was a Foreign Service officer for more than 30 years.
5. Matthew Tueller Is From Utah and Is Married With FIve Children
Matthew Tueller is married to DeNeece Gurney of Provo, Utah. They have five children.
During his Senate confirmation hearing to become ambassador to Iraq, Tueller thanked his wife for her support.
“She has provided steadfast support throughout my Foreign Service career, including during periods of separation when I served at unaccompanied posts such as Iraq and Yemen and during periods where she and other U.S. Embassy family members were evacuated from posts in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Along with our five children, DeNeece and I have had the privilege of representing the United States abroad under many challenging but rewarding circumstances. I would not be here today but for their love and support,” he said, according to a Senate Foreign Relations transcript.