UN taps ex-US official to resettle Iranian dissidents

The United Nations has tapped President Obama's former Number 2 Homeland Security official to oversee the resettlement of Iranian dissidents outside of Iraq.

Jane Holl Lute, Obama's deputy secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 until last year, will serve as  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special adviser for the relocation of members of the People's Mujahideen of Iran, or MEK. About 3,100 members of the group remain at a refugee camp inside a former U.S. military base, and the Iraqi government wants them out of the country.

“Ms. Holl Lute will work with a wide range of stakeholders, in particular Member States, with a view to facilitating the relocation of residents of Camp Hurriya outside of Iraq,” the UN said in a statement.

Holl Lute's appointment comes as the Obama administration is under increasing pressure to prevent attacks that have killed dozens of the refugees over the past year. The MEK blames the attacks on Iraq's Shiite government acting on behalf of Iran. Six senators of both parties have urged Obama to press Iraq  on the issue and the UN is demanding that Iraq launch an investigation.

The State Department has responded by appointing a senior adviser for MEK Resettlement, Jonathan Winer. The administration hopes to find other countries willing to accept the Iranians other than Albania, which has taken in most of the 162 MEK refugees resettled so far.

The MEK was listed as a terror group by the State Department until 2012. It has since opened an office near the White House and enlisted former officials of both parties, including former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, to press the administration on its behalf.

Holl Lute worked for the UN prior to joining the State Department, serving as assistant secretary-general for Peacebuilding Support and assistant secretary-general for Mission Support in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Before that was was executive vice-president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill