US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has flown to Kurdistan, to congratulate the leader of the region’s governing coalition on winning the general and presidential elections. Initial results show Masood Barzani won both polls with 57 and 69 percent of the vote respectively.
However, stronger-than-expected showings by new political groupings mean Kurdistan may get its first credible opposition in parliament. Disputes over oil resources and territory have led to tension between the Kurds and the central government in Baghdad. The fear is that the tension will escalate into violence when US forces leave Iraq. The top US commander in Baghdad, General Ray Odierno, has called the dispute the “number one driver of instabilities in Iraq.”