U.S. Ambassador to Yemen: Who Is Matthew Tueller?
Matthew H. Tueller, a career Foreign Service Officer, was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Yemen on May 8, 2014. It is the second ambassadorial post for Tueller.
Born in 1956 in Utah, Tueller grew up in in Europe, North Africa, and Latin America, including four years in Tangier, Morocco, as his father, Blaine Tueller, was a Foreign Service officer for more than 30 years. It was there that the younger Tueller, at age nine, learned Arabic. By the time he became an ambassador, he was said by colleagues to have “probably the best Arabic in the Foreign Service.” He developed a taste for the diplomatic life as well, telling a sister when he was 16 that he would be an ambassador by the time he was 50. He was off by five years.
Tueller earned a B.A. in International Relations from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1975. Over the next twenty years, nine of his siblings also graduated from BYU. He took a year off from school at BYU to live and work in Spain as a Mormon missionary. He also earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1984. After graduation, he worked for a year as an official in the Reagan administration.
Tueller joined the Foreign Service in 1985 and served as Egypt desk officer from 1989 to 1991. Early overseas assignments included political officer at the embassy in Kuwait, political officer and consular officer at the embassy in Amman, Jordan, political officer at the embassy in London and deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Doha, Qatar.
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.
In 2011, Tueller reached his long-time goal of becoming an ambassador when he was sworn in as the U.S. envoy to Kuwait. One of his standout moments there was being photographed with Kim Kardashian. But by 2014, the turmoil in Yemen called for an ambassador who could keep his cool under difficult conditions. Former diplomat Ryan Crocker called Tueller “the calmest person one can imagine—always thoughtful, always low-key even when the stuff is flying,” according to Politico, and Tueller was sent to Sana’a.
Since taking over in Yemen, Tueller was been the object of a murder attempt by Al-Qaeda, with two bombs planted outside the home of the Yemeni president, whom Tueller was visiting. The bombs failed to go off.
Tueller and other embassy personnel left the country when the embassy was ordered abandoned because of the fighting in Yemen. Tueller supervised the destruction of sensitive property, including weapons used by Marines guarding the diplomatic compound, before leaving the country.
Tueller later met with Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the port city of Aden, where Hadi had fled from Sana’a. Although some governments have said they would move their embassies to Aden, the United States has said it won’t do so. Since March, Tueller has been working out of the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Tueller and his wife, DeNeece, have five children. They maintain a home in Provo, Utah.
-Steve Straehley, Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Assignment: Yemen (by Michael Crowley, Politico)
The LDS Diplomat who Might Have the Most Dangerous Job in the World (Mweridian Magazine)
Utahn Has Front-Row Seat to Revolutions, War, History (by Matt Canham, Salt Lake Tribune)
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