President Trump may have left his successor an unexpected gift in negotiating with Iran, however this rogue state's unpredictability may yet cause further surprises to the new US president, Donald Forbes explains.

As promised, President Biden has begun to revive the nuclear agreement – JPOAC – with Iran. The fear of his policy's opponents is that he will be as much a pushover as Obama for Iran's aggressive and single-minded leaders.

It need not be this way. There's an opportunity to call the bluff of Iranian intransigence and deploy a more imaginative approach than the concessions – which some call surrenders – made to Tehran in the past.

Iran, knowing Obama's desperation for an agreement in 2015 treated the US negotiators led by John Kerry highhandedly, dictating what would be excluded from the deal – Iran's ballistic missiles – and what would be hidden in secret protocols whose terms are unknown to this day.

Evidence of Iranian cheating over uranium enrichment and therefore the time it needed to make a first weapon ahead of the 2025 deadline, prompted President Trump to revoke the JPOAC in 2018 and apply hard-biting sanctions. These give Biden a powerful negotiating advantage if he wants to exploit it.

Repeating Obama's mistakes means the mullahs will get their bomb eventually on their own terms despite the fact that Iran as a freelance nuclear power would be intolerable. There are, however, ways to neutralise the very real threat posed to the Middle East balance of power and to European security.

This means the reverse of a zero-sum, adversarial negotiation. The US should pursue a carrot-and-stick strategy that turns the aim back to front and offers Iran solid and lasting gains. Under it, the US and Iran would be fully co-operating partners in developing Iran's legal nuclear capability.

The carrot would be the US providing Tehran with the cooperation and technology it needs in return for a verifiable limit on the number of nuclear weapons it would be allowed to possess and a dual key system that would prevent their use without US agreement. Both elements would be crucial to our ability to trust Tehran which would be required to be bound by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The need for sanction would disappear at once.

Dual key use dependent on US agreement, would prevent Iran using its nuclear arsenal for aggressive purposes but would guarantee defensive deterrence if the country came under threat itself. Saudi Arabia and Egypt might need to be allowed nuclear parity as an additional safeguard.

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Biden should publicly stake this out as his goal from the outset and make such an agreement the absolute condition for lifting sanctions which have crippled Iran's economy and represent a constant threat to the regime's long term survival.

The stick would be that if the mullahs refused to cooperate, the Americans would not stand in the way of Israeli air strikes to destroy Iranian nuclear installations and a warning that Washington would provide whatever logistic and tactical support Israel needed to do so.

Getting ordinary Iranians behind the the need to fight the Great Satan (and Israel) has been the rock on which 40 years of theological tyranny has been built and brought it to its current economic plight.

Entering an era of co-operation with the US in which sanctions were lifted and the economy normalised would give the mullahs scope to relax their suffocating grip on Iran's 80 million people and popularise their rule

Iran's historic grudge against the US and the British is not artificial, dating back at least to their overthrow of prime minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953, but it need not be ever-lasting.

A deal on these terms which has tangible advantages for both sides would achieve Obama's dream of an Iranian alliance of interest with the US and limit out interference in the Middle East by China and Russia which were both JPOAC signatories.

Iran, still in intransigent mode, has not leapt at Biden's offer which is why the Israel bulldog growling in the background should be concentrating the minds of the mullahs. Even if Benjamin Netanyahu loses power in next month's elections, his successor will share the determination of all Israeli leaders to prevent Iran going nuclear.

Spoiling tactics such as the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists apart, Israel's government and military so far has been kept on America's leash with regard to Iran; Biden has the option of letting that go if all else fails.

Iranian hardliners would probably jib at the constraints the dual key solution would entail but they also need to find a way to enable the country to breathe. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini is almost 82 and there is a strong current of popular opposition to theological government which requires energy and resources to suppress. After Khameini, what?

Part of Trump's legacy is that in repudiating Obama's flawed deal, he has left a Biden a platform from which a better one can be negotiated that could be a lifeline for the mullahs, bring relief to Iranians and ease Middle East tensions overall.

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