Jihad Makdissi, who until yesterday was the spokesperson for Syria's foreign ministry and one of the main voices of Bashar al-Assad's regime, has reportedly left the country after others sources reported that he was fired for failing to toe the company line. Lebanon's al-Manar television reported on Monday morning that Makdissi was fired for making statements that did not reflect the official view of the government. Makdissi is a Christian and not a member of Assad's Alawite sect.
The only question is: Did he defect because he was fired, or was he fired because he was defecting? A "diplomatic source" tells Reuters that he is definitely not in Syria and that's really all that matters at this point. Whether he meant to offend Assad on the way out or get himself sacked on purpose—he apparently acknowledged recently that Syria does indeed have chemical weapons—is almost beside the point as he is definitely not part of the government any more, and will likely be sought out by every intelligence agency from Turkey to Washington. Syria's official state media has not offered an explanation for his absence.
Some Syrian watchers are waiting for Makdissi himself to speak up and tell the whole story before deciding, but feel free to mentally add him to this list of high-level defections from the Assad regime that Al Jazeera currently tabs at 73 people. The United Nations also just announced that it is pulling all of its non-essential personnel out of the country.