The Caucasus nation Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic wedged between Iran and Russia, has emerged as a strategic hotbed of global intelligence as tensions rise between Iran and the West. Its capital, Baku, has become the focal point of maneuvering by spies for Iran, whose citizens can travel visa-free to Azerbaijan, and by Israel's Mossad intelligence service. “Like Casablanca in World War II, Baku is now also a center of monitoring Iranian mischief,” one U.S. intelligence expert said of Azerbaijan. It is also a center of Israeli and Iranian jockeying for power in the region. Despite ethnic ties to Iran, oil-rich Azerbaijan, eager to establish itself as a cosmopolitan European power, has kept strong ties to the West. It was quick to throw its support to the U.S. after Sept. 11, 2001, and Israel has established a defense equipment factory there.