On November 7, the White House announced that US President Donald Trump intended to nominate Matthew Toller to serve as US ambassador to Iraq, replacing Douglas Seelman. This is a step in line with US policy in the Middle East, with regard to Iraqi affairs and economic sanctions on Iran.
Toller is not new to the Middle East. The man who has served as his country’s ambassador to Yemen since May 2014 is a senior member of the US State Department’s diplomatic corps. He has held several positions in US embassies in the region, including the US ambassador to Kuwait, 2011-2014), immediately before being transferred to Yemen. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Head of Mission at the US Embassies in Cairo, Kuwait and Doha, in addition to the positions of Political Advisor at the US Embassy in Riyadh, Director of the US Consulate in Aden, Political and Consular Officer at the US Embassy in Amman, he also served as deputy director of the North Gulf Affairs Office and an official for Egyptian Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
It is useful to note here that the new ambassador is different from the ambassadors of the United States of America in Iraq. Matthew Toller was a coordinator between the US government and the Iraqi opposition in 1995, 1996 and 1997, meaning that he has previous experience and knowledge about them noting what increases the importance of this ambassador that the political opposition at that time became mostly the political class that governs Iraq in the period after 2003.
Toller is proficient in Arabic, and his colleague in the service Ryan Crocker, who worked with him in Iraq and Kuwait, describes him as “the best one speaking Arabic in the foreign service perhaps.” He spent four years in Morocco when his father, a former diplomat, worked there, studied colloquial Arabic, studied Arabic at the university and in Cairo.
Iraqi political observers and analysts see that Trump has chosen Toller as “the most critical of Iran’s policies and of Tehran’s influence in Iraq, Syria and the Arab region. He was a good listener for Trump’s speech, and he worked hard to please American presidents during his tenure in his country’s embassies in Arab countries noting “During his tenure in Yemen, Toller criticized Iran’s policy of supporting the Huthis, which he would work on for the Popular crowed Militia close to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, as well as to establish US principles regarding the commitment of Iraq to the economic sanctions on Iran. ”
Toller has comments in which he has attacked Iran on several occasions especially the movement in Yemen , as well as attacking the Houthi militia , he said in an earlier statement “The ruling of the Houthis in the areas they control is a brutal rule for the people of Yemen, and ” he stressed in a statement earlier that ” we do not compromise with Iran’s efforts to impose its hegemony in Yemen.”
The Iraqi observers and political analysts see that “there is anticipation for Trump step of the name Toller ambassador to the United States in Baghdad, as he is known by the leaders of the first row of the political process in Iraq, and was present after the US occupation and participated in the arrangement of some files,” indicating that he is “very fierce against Iran , and may be a description of the period of his presence in Baghdad comfortable is not true, the current Ambassador Douglas Sillman, a peaceful person, but the new ambassador can be described as a military ambassador. His presence in Baghdad coincides with a more aggressive US policy toward Tehran’s influence and its loyalist militias in Iraq, especially as opponents of Iranian influence there accuse the current US ambassador, Douglas Silliman, and the US envoy to the international coalition to fight ISIS, Brit Mkgorek, by being weak to confront movements of Tehran and commander of Quds corps in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Qassem Soleimani.
Iraqi political analysts believe that the role of the new ambassador in reducing the role of militias and prevent normalization with Iran, saying that “the US president knows that Iraq is concerned specific to the influence and the American presence in it, and through this point, does not deal with Iraq as it does with other countries,” adding that “the factions of Iran in Iraq will be besieged, and will not be able to encroach on the new ambassador, because of the decline of Shiite political entities supporting the factions at the popular level. So that Tehran will not direct the factions loyal to it to face the new ambassador, because they read the data a good reading and knows that it is useless to engage with America, under the current economic conditions, and thus compass factions will tend to political action more and treat Iran with the best without acquiescence.
That the nomination of Matthew Toller as the new ambassador to the United States of America in Iraq confirms that the Trump administration is going on in its project to besiege Iran, and more importantly now how will be able to take over the remnants of the scattered political process which has been subject to the policies of Iran? His job will not be easy, even if Toler has the necessary qualifications. He will need his country’s support for him on the ground, which is still difficult for America to achieve. ” Dulaimi concluded by saying: “Yes, Toller is an ambassador with the rank of warrior, but his weapon will be moral and not material.”
Soon, Toller will arrive in Iraq and carry out his missions from a set of constants: rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, hostility to Iran and its loyal militias. The effects of this will quickly be reflected on the demands of the Americans from the Iraqi government. The policies of the new Washington representative will be more aggressive and “bolder” than his predecessor’s, and can now predict clashes between his team and Tehran’s allies in Iraq.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies