1990 October 2 Dr. turns diplomat

Ephrata doctor’s diplomat in mission to mend gulf crisis
Associated Press

The Spokesman-Review and Spokane Chronicle


EPHRATA, Wash. – A small-town doctor who for eight years has treated patients in this Eastern Washington farming community is now trying to heal international problems in the Middle East.

Dr. Mohammad Said, a family physician, spent 15 days in a self-paid trip to the Middle East last month meeting with what he said were high-placed Iraqi officials and witnessing the aftermath of Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

The self-appointed diplomat says he wants to go back.

“I must talk to Saddam Hussein,” Said said in an interview last week. “I think I could help him to understand … I want to persuade him to be more flexible, to tell him how Americans feel about the invasion.”

This is not his first attempt at personal diplomacy. Two years ago, Said traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to help draft and promote a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also went to Iran to plead for an end to the Iran-Iraq war. On his recent trip to occupied Kuwait, he shot videotape for the Cable News Network.

Born and raised on the Palestinian West Bank, Said is a political activist and an advocate for Arab Americans in the state Democratic Party. He studied medicine in Spain and Canada before taking a job in North Dakota. Eight years ago he moved to Ephrata, where irrigated farmlands remind him of his native Jordan Valley.

Said says he is frightened that the diplomatic squabble that has ensued since Iraq invaded Kuwait will soon lead to armed battle involving the United States. He believes hostilities are rooted in two cultures’ refusal to understand each other.

“There is too much misinformation,” Said said. “President Bush doesn’t understand. Hussein doesn’t understand. Their positions are hardened. There has to be some kind of compromise.”

Said said the Persian Gulf crisis is an example of how Western powers pit one Arab nation against another to maintain control over Mideast oil reserves. While Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was “unfortunate,” he says, the Iraqis have a valid claim to Kuwaiti territory, based on centuries of history.

He criticized the U.S. position as “policeman” for the United Nations sanctions, saying it is undermined by American refusals to support U.N. resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and other occupied territories.

Said denies any anti-Semitism. He said he simply hopes to prevent the United States from jumping into a war in a region that most Americans see only as a source for cheap oil.

“People feel that if you criticize American intervention, you are un-American. We got some telephone calls from people who don’t like what I am saying,” Said said.

“But when you talk to people one on-one, they understand that I am not anti-American; I am just anti-war.”