In a way, one could say that the defection on Sunday of Mohammad Ahmad Faris, a Syrian air force pilot who was Syria’s first man in space, is the highest-level Syrian defection.
But politically — and politically very damaging to the Syrian regime — the highest level defection thus far appears to be the one reported by several news sources this morning.
According to the New York Times, Syrian opposition leaders are reporting that Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab has defected to Jordan along with at least two ministers and three military officers — 10 families in all.
The identities of the other ministers are not known at this time.
Hijab had only been appointed to the high-level position less than two months ago.
Perhaps trying to soften the blow and embarrassment to the Syrian regime, Syrian sources claim that Bashar al-Assad had already fired Hijab.
This additional bad news to the regime comes just a few hours after a bomb explosion was reported at the main state television building in Damascus and while fighting continues to rage in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, and elsewhere in the country.
According to the BBC, Hijab’s spokesman Mohammed el-Etri told al-Jazeera TV that he was in a safe location:
“I address you today at this grave hour where the country is living under the brunt of genocide and barbarian brutal killing against unarmed people who are simply demanding freedom and a dignified life,” ran the statement read by his spokesman.
“Today I declare… that I have defected from the terrorist, murderous regime and [am] joining the holy revolution. And I declare that from today I am a soldier of this holy revolution.”
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.