The west's new spy post: Azerbaijan

A secular dictatorship with a long border with Iran, it is one of the few remaining countries than can act as a reliable listening post for America and Israel, turning its capital, Baku, into a hotbed of intelligence activity.

“Like Casablanca in World War II, Baku is now also a center of monitoring Iranian mischief,” Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow at the Washington-based Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, part of the Heritage Foundation, told msnbc.com. “This is understandable taking into account visa-free regime of travel between the two countries and aggressive Iranian intelligence tactics.”…

So why does Azerbaijan matter? Not only does its geography make it an ideal place for the U.S. and its allies to face down Tehran, but its political history entangles it in the current tensions with Israel.

Millions living in northern Iran are ethnic Azeris, theoretically binding the two nations. But Azerbaijan has allied itself increasingly with Israel and the West as it uses its oil wealth to leverage its global standing.