LONG BORDERS WITH DIFFICULT NEIGHbors - Afghanistan and Iran - are not the only reasons armchair strategists are inclined to think Turkmenistan could fall under the influence of Islamic radicals. Arguably, the repressive nature of the regime in power could itself fuel a creed-based backlash against the authorities. Is Turkmenistan, a newly independent state with the world's fourth-largest natural-gas reserves and a population of only 4.5 million, a frontline state in a larger conflict pitting advocates of secular government against those seeking to establish theocratic regimes throughout the Muslim East? A glance at the historical record and the role of Islam in post-independence Turkmenistan suggest politicized Islam is unlikely to take hold there.

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