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New US ambassador meets with Iraqi foreign minister in Baghdad

Matthew Tueller has earned reputation for his steadfast support for Saudi Arabia and ardent criticism of Iran
Matthew Tueller, centre, in Yemen last year (AFP/ file photo)

The new US ambassador in Baghdad submitted his credentials to Iraq's top diplomat, the foreign ministry announced on Sunday, joining the embassy just weeks after Washington brought "non-essential" diplomatic staff home.

Matthew Tueller, 63, a fluent Arabic speaker and a former ambassador to Yemen and Kuwait, was a diplomat in Iraq between 2007 and 2008. He has vast experience in the Middle East as he also worked in other regional countries including Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Xinhua said.

On Sunday, Tueller submitted his diplomatic credentials to Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, who said Baghdad would "guarantee all necessary conditions for the success of his mission", AFP reported.

Tueller has earned a reputation for his steadfast support for Saudi Arabia and ardent criticism of Iran - accusing it of fomenting instability in the region, according to the Rudaw news agency of Iraqi Kurdistan.

During his Senate confirmation hearings last month, Tueller 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 National reported on its website. The goal, he said, is “to keep Iraq weak and dependent”.

The US Senate confirmed Tueller's appoinment in mid-May, a day after the State Department announced it was withdrawing all "non-essential" members from its embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil.

The move came amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran that have repeatedly seen Iraq - an ally of both countries - caught in the middle.

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The US withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year, then reinstated tough sanctions on the Islamic republic.

In April, it designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a "terrorist organisation", prompting Iran to slap US troops across the region with the same designation.

And last month, the US deployed a carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf over unspecified Iranian "threats", and a rocket landed in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, where the US embassy is based.

The tensions have sparked fears of a spillover into Iraq, which relies heavily on Iran for energy and consumer goods and where various Shia armed groups have close ties to Tehran.

Tueller, from Utah, joined the US Foreign Service in 1985 after earning a bachelors in international relations from Brigham Young University and a masters in public policy from Harvard.