The steadily-rising casualty count among Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops sent to prop up beleaguered dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria is leading to "mutiny" among officers serving there, according to reports.
The Arabic Asharq al-Awsat claims a source close to the Guards told them some senior officers were refusing orders. Other more junior officers have already been court marshaled on charges of "mutiny and treason," the sources added.
Some 30 IRGC fighters have been killed in combat over the past several weeks, including four senior officers killed last month alone.
The most recently-confirmed casualty was Colonel Ezzatollah Soleimani, who state media said died during an "advisory mission" near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, where battles are raging between regime forces, rebels and ISIS.
Earlier that month Iran received its harshest blow since intervening on behalf of Assad in Syria, with the death of top-ranking IRGC commander General Hossein Hamedani, who was also killed near Aleppo.
The same source also revealed some of the ethnic fault lines within the Guards, claiming that senior officers from the ethnically-Arab Ahvaz province in Iran had in recent months suddenly "chosen retirement and pursuing business activities" to avoid deployment in Syria alongside their comrades from the Persian majority, where they would be fighting against fellow Arabs.
Tehran has reportedly opened an investigation into many of them for retiring at such a "critical time."
The source further claimed the Revolutionary Guards had resorted to a hasty recruitment drive among other Iranian minority populations - including Sunni Muslims, and ethic Kurds and Balochs - "offering the equivalent of 830 dollars for six weeks’ service in Syria following training," to augment the Assad regime's own flagging manpower.
Iran is Damascus's staunchest backer, having provided weapons, training, funds and other extensive aid to regime forces, as well as military "advisers," many of whom - despite Iran's denials - have been involved in front line battles.