Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7) laid out his objections to the Iran nuclear deal, telling an audience at the Millburn Town Hall on Aug. 4 that among its flaws was a failure to secure an “anywhere, anytime” provision for inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“‘Anywhere, anytime,’ including undisclosed locations, is an absolute necessity to move forward,” Lance said during the question-and-answer period. “Can we get anytime, anywhere? I don’t know. But we should negotiate further.”
Lance has not committed to voting no on the deal, although based on his public statements he is expected to join a Republican majority in opposing it. In a July 14 statement, he objected that sanctions relief did not ensure the permanent dismantling of Iran’s existing nuclear infrastructure or “anytime, anywhere” inspections. “Removing sanctions without lasting results achieves nothing,” he wrote at the time.
Public interest in the issue was evident from the overflow crowd at the Millburn site, which included constituents from North Plainfield, Livingston, Cranford, Warren, and Union. Police were stationed just outside the doors to keep a growing crowd of on-timers and latecomers from gaining access. About 30 people, including two local clergy and three members of the news media, were unable to gain access. (Reporters were eventually allowed in, but not until after Lance had delivered his prepared remarks.)
Back in the hall, Lance disagreed with an audience member who said the deal may be the best the United States and its international partners could get.
“I think if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling,” he said, “but if that happens, in a year or two we will get a better deal.”
Lance said that if the deal went through, Iran is “likely to comply for a year, or two, or three, but over the longer term [there would be] significant challenges.”
Lance predicted the deal would survive a no-vote in Congress, but described the challenges even if a Republican president wished to change the agreement.
“If I play that out, I suppose we could reimpose sanctions. But what would China do? What would Russia do? What would our allies in England, France, and Germany do? Once you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, it is very difficult to squeeze it back in.”
Audience members expressed a variety of views, although supporters of the deal appeared to be in the minority.
Among the supporters was Fran Henig of Short Hills. “I really do believe this was a negotiated deal. Iran is not a wonderful state. It’s a terrorist state and a bad actor,” she told NJJN. However, “we negotiated SALT with the Russians, and Nixon went into China and [at the time], these were not wonderful states. But those deals moved forward. Whether or not this moves forward, I think it’s the best we can do at this point.”
She applauded Lance “for coming in here where there are definitely conflicting views.” She said she had hoped he would present “the pros and cons” of the bill and was disappointed that he “only presented an opposing point of view.”
Michael Schechner of Short Hills was among those opposing the deal. He called the presentation “exceptionally well done.” Schechner believes the deal is “flawed” in several ways, and listed the lack of “anywhere, anytime” inspections, the fact that Iran “maintains the ability to have centrifuges and within a few years will be able to develop more advanced centrifuges, and that Iran will get intercontinental ballistic missiles quickly.”
He also protested that sanctions relief will give Iran “an immediate release of frozen money.”
For his part, Lance appeared willing to listen to his constituents. When one asked what the impact would be on Iran’s politics if the deal did not go through, he responded, “I have not been briefed on that,” and promised, twice, to bring the issue to Washington.
“I will be voting based on what I think is the best for our national security,” he said in conclusion, acknowledging that the issue is likely an existential one for Israel. “Is it an existential event for the United States? I wouldn’t go that far. But it is not in the national security interests of the United States.”