The Middle East has been the Third World region of primary interest to the Soviets since they first embarked on an active Third World course in the 1950s. The overall Soviet record in the Middle East since the 1950s has been one of considerable success. The USSR has become an important regional player and, as recent events in Lebanon, Syria, and the Persian Gulf have demonstrated, cannot be ignored. Soviet military equipment has allowed Moscow's clients to play enhanced regional roles, often complementing Soviet interests. The move put the Soviet Union at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the United States in terms of mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict, however, and contributed to the stagnation of the Soviet political position in the Middle East. The Soviets have pursued considerably more flexible policies with respect to a wide variety of Middle East issues, including relations with Israel and the moderate Arab states and a diplomatic solution to the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict.