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Azerbaijan, which links Russia to the Middle East, has strategic importance as a bridgehead for the West in its war of diplomacy with Tehran.

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.”

Source: Alastair Jamieson for MSNBC.

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Image: Google Maps Azerbaijan, which links Russia to the Middle East, has strategic importance as…