President Sapirmurat Niyazov, the all-powerful leader of Turkmenistan, suddenly died on December 21, 2006. Because Central Asia is a cockpit of great power rivalry and a potential theater in the Global War on Terrorism, no sooner had Niyazov died than the great powers were all in Turkmenistan seeking to influence its future policies away from the neutrality that had been Niyazov’s policy. Turkmenistan’s importance lies almost exclusively in its large natural gas holdings and proximity to the Caspian Sea and Iran. Because energy is regarded as a strategic asset as much if not more than as a mere lubricant or commodity, Russia, Iran, China, and the United States have all been visibly engaged in competition for influence there. The outcome of this competition and of the domestic struggle for power will have repercussions throughout Central Asia, if not beyond. The author shows the linkage between energy and security policies in Central Asia and in the policies of the major powers towards Central Asia. Beyond this analysis, he provides recommendations for U.S. policymakers as to how they should conduct themselves in this complex situation.
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