The Syrian ambassador to Iraq has defected in protest of President Bashar al–Assad’s brutal crackdown on dissidents, according to a Syrian opposition group.

Nawaf al-Fares, Damascus’ first envoy to Baghdad in more than three decades, has allegedly joined the rebel movement, said the Syrian National Council (SNC), which added that more diplomats are likely to join the exodus.

This is just the beginning of a series of defections on the diplomatic level. We are in touch with several ambassadors, SNC official Mohammed Sermini told Reuters.

A senior Iraqi lawmaker, Ayad Allawi, tweeted on Wednesday: Reliable sources have informed me of the defection of Nawaf Fares, Syria Ambassador to Iraq.

However, Iraqi government officials could not confirm the defection.