The diplomatic cables downloaded clandestinely from a U.S. government network and published last week without authorization by the activist website WikiLeaks have shone a major spotlight on Turkmenistan and served to validate the reporting done by exile groups about their homeland. The cables from 2009 and early 2010 expose not only the closed society of Turkmenistan, but the use of the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat as a listening post on the even more closed society of neighboring Iran. As with cables from other regions, the reports from Ashgabat illustrate how countries that seem to maintain cordial ties to both Iran and Turkmenistan -- like Turkey -- are concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions and skeptical of Turkmenistan’s neutrality. The cables about Turkmenistan itself don't really contain anything we didn't know from the gossip circuit of the hundreds of diplomats, businessmen, journalists, and NGOs who manage to get into Turkmenistan but usually refrain from talking publicly about their experiences in order to keep their access. Now everyone knows.
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Catherine A. Fitzpatrick compiles the Turkmenistan weekly roundup for EurasiaNet. She is also editor of EurasiaNet's Sifting the Karakum blog. To subscribe to the weekly email with a digest of international and regional press, write firstname.lastname@example.org