LANGLEY, VAâ€”In an alarming report released Monday by the Central Intelligence Agency, Syria may be harboring upwards of 15 million known Arabs within its borders.
"Reliable intelligence collected by our agency indicates that Syria has conspired to lend physical and economic support to a massive number of people belonging to this group," CIA director George J. Tenet said. "The shocking truth is, there are nearly as many Arabs in Syria as there are people in New York and Los Angeles combined. In fact, Syrians openly refer to their nation as the Syrian Arab Republic, despite knowing full well America's opinion on these matters."
Explaining the CIA's methods of gathering data on the rogue ethnicity's presence in Syria, Tenet said it relied on a combination of satellite imagery, computer-system infiltration, reports from Syrian covert operatives, intercepted radio and television transmissions, and The World Almanac And Book Of Facts 2003.
"It's practically an open secret these days," Tenet said. "Syrian television brazenly shows Arabs in military uniforms carrying guns, or delivering political speeches to other members of the group. Walk into any house of worship in the country, and you'll see people reading the Koran and bowing their heads in prayer toward Mecca. It's almost like they're daring the United States to get involved."
"Disturbingly, more than 90 percent of these Arabs have been linked to the practice of 'Islam'â€”a defiantly non-Western system of faith whose core principles are embraced by none other than Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein," Tenet added. "If this is true, and we do consider this information to be correct in all particulars, then this is troubling at best."
President Bush, Tenet said, has been aware of Syria's ties to known Arab political and religious figures since the earliest planning stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tenet assured reporters that all possible diplomatic avenues of resolving the situation were being aggressively pursued.
"We have informed [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad of the presence of Arabs in his country and have offered any aid necessary to bring this situation under control," Tenet said. "I am confident that a resolution to this crisis can be achieved without resorting to military action."
This is not the first time Syria has been linked to Arabs. Israel found the Golan Heights heavily populated by Arabs when it annexed the region from Syria during 1967's Arab-Israeli War. Arabs have historically held many influential posts in the Syrian government, and the CIA claims to have data indicating that wealthy Arab businessmen control the greater part of Syria's economy.
The CIA report prompted concern from many Americans.
"I'm not surprised," said Wayne Early, an Atlanta-area mortgage broker. "I suspect they're all over that part of the world. First, the government linked them to Sept. 11, then Afghanistan, and then Iraq. It makes you wonder who's next."
"The more I learn about Arabs, the less I like them," said Carol Schecter of Norfolk, VA. "Beirut, Teheran, Baghdad... everyplace there's trouble, they're there, and now we've found them in Syria. I just hope they don't hurt the regular Syrians."
Tenet assured citizens that he is committed to resolving the crisis.
"We don't want to cause any undue panic, but now that the Arabs are there, we're going to have to deal with them," Tenet said. "Unfortunately, they're not just going to go away by themselves."