This is rather comical. US and Western media want to make it a big story. Look at the funny way in which the LA Times report the story: it is called defection by a high ranking diplomat. Hazem is the son of former Syrian chief-of-staff, Hikmat Ash-Shihabi (a major figure in the regime of Hafidh Al-Asad). He resigned his post in 1998, and was part of the team that was put on the payroll of Rafiq Hariri (the others were `Abdul-Halim Khaddam, and Ghazi Kan`an). Hazem lives in the US has been very close to the Syrian regime embassy and often speaks on behalf of the Syrian regime (he is a radiologist in Newport Beach and Rafiq Hariri used to come and undergo medical tests there). He lives in the US and has an honorary title: as an honorary consult-general. He says that his resignation (not defection, you idiots) came as a result of pressures from Syrian opposition groups (most of the Syrians in the US are now in favor of the opposition--my own estimation) and by CAIR (the Islamist pro-Saudi American organization). By the way, Hikmat Shihabi returned to Syria in 2010 to stand with the regime but kept a low profile.