Senate confirms Matt Tueller as US ambassador to Iraq

Former US ambassador to Yemen takes up new post

Matthew Tueller, nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Even as Washington withdraws non-emergency staff from Iraq amidst concerns of increased Iranian threat in the country, the US Senate confirmed on Thursday the nomination of Matthew Tueller as the new ambassador to Baghdad.

In a voice vote, the Senate confirmed Mr Tueller for the post that has been vacant since 2016:

An Arabic speaker, a former ambassador to Yemen, and a former diplomat in Iraq between 2007 and 2008, Mr Tueller had advocated in his testimony more US engagement in the country.

“I understand the importance of US 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,” he told the Senate in March.

Mr Tueller also defined US engagement as a critical component to counter “threats from Iran” in Iraq.

“We must remain engaged to ensure that Iraq can fend off the internal and external threats, including threats from Iran, to its sovereignty and its territorial integrity.”

He accused Iran of seeking “to exploit divisions, weaken state institutions, and foster extremism...cultivate irregular forces operating outside the full control of the government.”

The goal he said is “to keep Iraq weak and dependent.”

As the US evacuates its non-essential staff, Mr Tueller said “there will be no greater priority for me than the safety and security of all Americans residing in Iraq.”

His nomination follows the confirmation of retired General John Abizaid as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and David Schenker as assistant secretary for near east affairs at the State Department. David Satterfield who is currently visiting Lebanon and Israel to push forward the issue of maritime borders is expected to be confirmed as Ambassador to Turkey in the next few weeks.

Also this week, scholar and expert Andrew Tabler who works on Syria joined the National Security Council's Middle East Affairs Directorate as its director for the Syria file.