Western literature on Soviet policy in the Middle East is fraught with controversy over such crucial mues of substance as the chief objectives and major thrust of Soviet behavior. Some have argued that Soviet policy has been basically offensive, aimed at undermining the American and Western presence in the area and, by expanding Soviet influence, achieving control over the region's strategic assets. Others have maintained that Soviet policy has been fundamentally defensive, aimed primarily at preventing the area from being used to encircle, embottle, or attack the USSR. 1 Some claim that Soviet policy in the Middle East has been aggressive, provocative--even incendiary--and destabilizing, oriented toward the perpetuation of conflict and tension. 2 Others stress that the USSR has been notably cautious and restrained, deeply concerned to prevent a superpower collision in the region, and hence eager for the resolution or diminution of conflict and the elimination or reduction of tension. 3