How does it all end? Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan – Ambassador Peter Galbraith lecture, April 25th.

Ambassador Peter Galbraith (Catz, PPE 1973) has had a key role as a US diplomat in Foreign Affairs and gave an engaging talk to a nearly full Bernard Sunley Lecture theatre at Catz today. As a medical student, with a former life as a chemist, who had no huge interest in politics until Brexit, I am probably the least qualified to summarize this event. But I am going to pretend my relative naïveté means I can avoid a TLDR post and give a very quick update for those who couldn’t make it. The following points are what I took as Ambassador Galbraith’s message. If I’ve got it wrong, I’d love to chat to someone about it.


  • There are two wars in the area – one involving western Syria, and the other eastern Syria and Iraq
  • Kurdish independence appears inevitable in Iraq, but whether this will be a smooth transition without violence remains to be seen
  • In the short term, eastern Syria looks ok, but the long term is less certain
  • Western Syria will stay in control of the Syrian government, not due to a lack of opposition, but due to a lack of a cohesive opposition.
  • An amnesty is needed in western Syria, along with financial restructuring.


My political education has been accelerating rather quickly since I took my head out of the sandpit, and talks like this have been very useful to help me get the lay of the land, especially when the talk is over and the questions are opened to the room. A talk focused on maps with colours, lines and territories drawn out can lead the unsuspecting newbie into detaching humanity from the situation, but that all familiar punch in the gut came when Galbraith pointed out that there are people who, without an amnesty, can’t get home. All in all, it was a very inspiring talk and once more left the audience with a feeling of gratefulness for the privileges that our College and University has to offer.