Articles by Douglas Frantz

Iran Close to Its Own Nuclear Bomb

  • 05 August 03
After more than a decade of working behind layers of front companies and in hidden laboratories, Iran appears to be in the late stages of developing the capacity to build a nuclear bomb.

Arafat-Iran Deal Made in Moscow

  • 25 March 02
U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have concluded that Yasser Arafat has forged a new alliance with Iran that involves Iranian shipments of heavy weapons and millions of dollars to Palestinian groups that are waging guerrilla war against Israel.

Bin Laden the Tip of the Iceberg

  • 24 September 01
Officials in Europe, the United States and Pakistan say they have identified new elements of the bin Laden terrorist network, including a top lieutenant in Europe and a previously undisclosed cell in the Gaza Strip.

Baku's Tough-Talking Mayor Tidies Up City

  • 28 August 01
BAKU, Azerbaijan Ч As soon as Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov stepped out of his black Mercedes on an impromptu visit to one of the city's refurbished parks, he was surrounded by well-wishers. People shook his hand warmly, thanking him for cleaning up their capital. Abutalibov is a laser physicist by training and a politician by instinct. He accepted the praise and pleas with equal enthusiasm, smiling, nodding and responding with apparent sincerity. Since he was appointed mayor at the end of January, Abutalibov, 57, slightly built and gray-haired, has gained cult status through a well-publicized campaign to clean up the city of 3 million. His frequent and unscripted forays into public places and the cleanliness of the city have turned him into Azerbaijan's second-most-popular politician, after its long-serving president, Heydar Aliyev, who gave him the job.

$3Bln Blue Stream Pipeline Enters Final Stages

  • 09 June 01
ISTANBUL, Turkey Ч In early August, one of the world's largest and most advanced offshore platforms will slip beneath the two graceful suspension bridges spanning the Bosporus, with 1 meter of clearance, on its way to the Black Sea. If everything goes as planned, a month later the huge rig will begin laying a pipeline at record depths of 2,100 meters in corrosive mud on the bottom of the great kidney-shaped sea to bring natural gas to energy-hungry Turkey from Russia. The $3 billion project represents more than a daring engineering feat. Its success would represent a setback in U.S. efforts to curtail Russia's influence in one of the world's most strategic regions. ""Both economically and politically, this project is extremely significant for Russia,"" said Fiona Hill, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ""It is seen as a major coup for the Russian government."" The pipeline would increase Turkey's dependence on Russian natural gas to around 80 percent, from the current 66 percent.

Kyrgyz Leader Hopes to Shore Up Image

  • 14 May 01
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan Ч For years, Western diplomats held up President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan as a champion of democracy among a gang of authoritarian leaders who control the other former Soviet republics of Central Asia. But the image of Akayev and his tiny country have been tarnished in recent months. Political rivals have been jailed, opposition newspapers and independent television stations have been intimidated and silenced and, most damaging, international observers condemned Akayev's re-election last October as a sham. The former university professor says he is determined to restore the prestige that he acknowledges he and his country have lost. Regaining the attention and respect of foreign leaders and international lenders is essential for any hope of prosperity in this nation, which lacks the energy resources of its neighbors.

Nagorno-Karabakh Talks Inching Ahead

  • 21 February 01
ISTANBUL, Turkey Ч After seven years of an uneasy truce and stalled peace talks, signs of progress have emerged in the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Diplomats said recent events had indicated movement toward solving a problem that has created at least a million refugees in the two countries and threatened stability in the Caucasus and neighboring Turkey. President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Heidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan met last month in Paris. Western diplomats said the two were expected to meet again within the next month for further talks. President Jacques Chirac of France met them in Paris and telephoned U.S. President George W. Bush on Feb. 1 to brief him. The call was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Chirac. Western diplomats said that Chirac and Bush had discussed Nagorno-Karabakh at length and that the French president was guardedly optimistic about a possible settlement.

New York Investors Join Suit Over Azeri Oil Deal

  • 15 February 01
ISTANBUL, Turkey Ч Columbia University and a Wall Street investment firm have joined a civil suit in London against a Czech promoter accused of fraud in a $450 million deal to acquire control of Azerbaijan's state-owned oil company. The new complaints bring to $180 million the total sought from the promoter, Viktor Kozeny, and two of his companies in London High Court. They also add new names to the list of prominent American individuals and institutions involved in an ill-fated effort to buy control of Socar, the state oil company. Among the investors in the privatization deal were George Mitchell, a former U.S. Senate majority leader, and Frederick Bourke, chairman of Dooney & Bourke, a handbag company. Neither has joined the suit.

Islamic Fervor From Iran Puts Azerbaijan on Alert

  • 07 February 01
BAKU, Azerbaijan Ч Internal security authorities in Azerbaijan are keeping a watchful eye on the activities of mullahs from neighboring Iran, nervous that the religious presence could translate into political instability. Government officials and Western diplomats said Iranian religious leaders have raised their profile in recent months, conducting a mass wedding for 2,000 poor people, holding a political rally and financing construction of the largest mosque in the Caucasus. Although the activities are carried out in the name of Islamic revival, security authorities said they are concerned that rising religious fervor could be transformed into a destabilizing political force in an impoverished country that has traditionally been squeezed between Russia to the north and Iran to the south. ""They have not done anything illegal or outwardly provocative, but we are monitoring them closely and we can envision some dangerous scenarios,"" said a senior official in the Azeri government.

How the Nobels Made a Prize of Azerbaijan's Oil

  • 06 February 01
BAKU, Azerbaijan Ч Mention the name Nobel and most people think of prestigious prizes and maybe the invention of dynamite. But here the famous Swedish Nobels are synonymous with oil, the lifeblood of Azerbaijan's economy. More than anyone, the Nobel family led the charge to develop Azerbaijan's oil resources at the end of the 19th century. They introduced innovations like oil pipelines and steam-powered tankers to a primitive industry, transforming Baku into one of the world's leading oil sources for a glorious and brief period. Now, with the country's post-Soviet economy fraying and a restive population facing energy shortages this winter, the tale of the Nobel family symbolizes the promise of wealth from another energy boom on the shores of the Caspian Sea and a hope that oil money will once again flow.

Ex-Satellites Nervous Over Tbilisi Gas Cuts

  • 10 January 01
ISTANBUL, Turkey Ч When Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had to send his energy minister to Moscow last week to beg for a resumption of natural gas to keep the heat and lights on in Tbilisi, shivers went through the corridors of capitals across the Caucasus. Russia's willingness to cut off gas supplies to Georgia is seen in the region as a message that Moscow is determined to use its gas and oil supplies as leverage to rebuild its dominant Soviet-era role. Georgian officials say Russia is pressing Shevardnadze to rescind his demand that Russian troops be withdrawn from Georgia. Two of Russia's four bases are scheduled to be closed by July, but Georgian officials said the Russians are pressing for a 15-year extension on closing any of them. Russia also contends that Georgia is providing support for rebels over its border in separatist Chechnya. Relations between the two countries are at an all-time low, Georgian officials say.

Uzbek Borders Curb Rural Life

  • 06 December 00
SOKH, Uzbekistan Ч The border guard gestured with the barrel of his Kalashnikov rifle, and the aged Soviet-built Lada pulled off the road at the checkpoint. A half-dozen people piled out of the battered car, lugging plastic bags of clothes and fruit for the guard to empty and examine. The people were Kyrgyz citizens on their way home from a day at the market. The only road passes through this enclave, 518 square kilometers of Uzbekistan surrounded by Kyrgyzstan where Uzbek border guards search every bus, truck and car. For centuries, shepherds, traders and travelers of many nationalities crisscrossed this mountainous region of Central Asia without regard for borders. During the Soviet era, when the serpentine borders of the republics were drawn in Moscow, passports and visas were largely unnecessary and trade continued much as it had for generations.

High Hopes Fade as Georgian Economy Fails to Ignite

  • 03 October 00
RUSTAVI, Georgia Ч The factories built as part of the great Soviet industrialization undertaken for Stalin, Georgia's native son, stand empty. The ugly concrete apartment houses for the workers are crumbling. The shops display few wares, and every traffic light is off to save electricity. Only the soup kitchen seems to be thriving; a line snakes out the door. Etery Guedashvili, 61, emerges from the squat building, carrying her ration of soup in a jar and bread wrapped in paper. Her meager meal is a reminder of the dashed hopes for democracy and prosperity all across the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia. ""I worked in a military production plant for 30 years, and I earned a good pension,"" she said. ""Now I get only 12 lari a month, and they don't even pay that. I would go back to work, but there are no jobs."" Twelve lari is $6, the average pension. Often the government does not have enough money to pay even that pittance, or the salaries of teachers, police officers and judges.

Azeri Leader Calls For Equal Footing in CIS

Azeri Refugees: Optimistic Victims of Poverty

Paddlefish Roe Fools Caviar Lovers