The Buzz

Missouri Republican rivals spar over Iranian militant group

A decades-old Iranian militant group has become a point of contention in the Republican primary for Missouri attorney general.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican, slammed his GOP rival, University of Missouri law professor Josh Hawley, for writing a legal brief making the case that the United States shouldn’t designate the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran as a terrorist organization.

Schaefer told the Columbia Daily Tribune that it demonstrated a lack of judgment for Hawley to “represent a terrorist organization.”

Hawley responded with a letter to Schaefer arguing that he is spreading misinformation about the group and pointing out that Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, former U.S. senator Kit Bond and former Missouri governor John Ashcroft have voiced strong support for the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

“You seem to misunderstand the threat we face from the Islamist regime in Iran and the value of pro-Western groups like (the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran),” Hawley said in his letter to Schaefer.

The group in question was founded in the 1960s to oppose the Iranian government. It was responsible for several killings of Americans through the 1970s.

It eventually renounced violence and began working with the United States in opposition to the current government of Iran. Hawley noted in his letter that the group has “provided critical intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program and other sensitive matters, and assisted the U.S. military in defeating our enemies in Iraq.”

In 2012, the U.S. removed the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran from the list of terrorist organizations.

The race for the Republican nomination for attorney general promises to be heated, with both sides building campaign war chests in preparation for the August primary. Schaefer reported nearly $1.5 million cash on hand in October, while Hawley had a little more than $700,000.

Here’s Hawley’s letter to Schaefer: