The rhetoric of the OK Corral has served to strengthen the impression that Colonel Qadhafi was an easy target who, unlike Syria, could not expect Soviet armed support. But that is far too simple, and we have no doubt that Syria and others well know it. It is central to both superpowers to obviate any danger of armed confrontation with each other. That is why, whatever the state of public incivilities between them, the State Department is always in touch with the Soviet Foreign Ministry, and the CIA and KGB maintain close contact at all levels. Secondly, whatever the American line about Soviet expansionism in the Middle East, the Americans well know that the Soviet Union is not going to risk armed confrontation with the US over any Arab state (or indeed Iran, where the overthrow of the Shah was as worrying to the Russians as it was to the Americans).