JONATHAN POWER The Israeli governments slap on the face of visiting US Vice-President Joseph Biden has heightened the perception that the foreign policy of the Obama administration is not going well. The problem, some argue, is that there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Besides Biden, there are the powerful secretaries of Defence and State, Gates and Clinton. There are the special trouble-shooters for the Middle East and Afghanistan, Mitchell and Holbrooke. Then there is the presidents own intimate staff. The National Security Advisor is supposed to keep all these lions in harness. Thats what Kissinger did during the Nixon and Ford presidencies, what Brzezinski did during the Carter presidency and what Scowcroft did during the presidency of Bush Sr. This is not to say the present incumbent, General Jones, is a weakling. He is not. It is just that the coterie he has to deal with is more experienced and better politically connected than he is. Gelb, the president-emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, has thrown a firecracker into the ring. He has suggested that Brzezinski be brought in as foreign policy tsar. Brzezinski was one of Obamas early heavyweight supporters and helped tutor the candidate. But was sidelined after he had made what were considered anti-Israeli remarks. As if on cue Brzezinski wrote the cover story of the February issue of Foreign Affairs. He praised Obama for having upturned the worlds perception of America in relations with the Islamic world, in planning the reduction of nuclear weapons stocks and in sharpening the focus on the environment. But there are three urgent issues that he has not got a proper hold on - the Israel-Palestine conflict, Irans nuclear ambitions and the Afghan-Pakistani challenge. Obama has not taken onboard the internationally favoured blueprint for peace - the sharing of Jerusalem, the resettling of refugees in Palestine, duly compensated, and land swaps to make up for the Jewish settlements. In his speech to the UN Assembly in September Obama ignored this consensus. If only he had embraced it, writes Brzezinski, he would have exerted enormous influence on both the Palestinians and the Israelis....So far the Obama team has shown neither the tactical skill, nor the strategic firmness needed to move the peace process forward. On Iran, he complements Obama for having downgraded the implied threat of a US military attack. Nevertheless, Brzezinski believes that it is impossible to persuade the Iranians to turn back the clock on what they have already done but that it should be possible to persuade them not to go to the next stage, weaponisation. So the policy towards Iran should escape the straightjacket imposed by the narrow focus on the nuclear issue. It should address regional security issues, economic cooperation and so on, not treating Iran as a pariah. Finally, there is the Afghan-Pakistan predicament. Obama has moved toward abandoning some of the more ambitious, even ideological, objectives that defined the USAs initial engagement in Afghanistan - the creation of a modern democracy, for example. Top generals have said that that the US is not winning militarily. There has to be an alternative strategy - talking with receptive elements of the Taliban. The Taliban are not a global revolutionary or terrorist movement and although they are a broad alliance with a rather medieval vision of what Afghanistan ought to be they do not directly threaten the West. Moreover, the US also needs to assuage Pakistans security concerns in order to gain its full cooperation in the campaign against the irreconcilable elements, maintained Brzezinski. I would add to that India needs to be cajoled into agreeing to the Kashmir peace plan. In any case, Brzezinski is unlikely to be appointed tsar. Nevertheless Obama should listen carefully to what he says. Khaleej Times