Contributor: Xander Ross
Posted: 06/21/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT The cargo ship supposedly transporting attack helicopters to Syria has returned to Russia.
MV Alaed had no option but to turn back after its insurance was withdrawn by The Standard Club in London.
The withdrawal was made as the ship reached 50 miles off Scotland’s north coast, preventing it from sailing until it could secure new cover.
Foreign Secretary William Hague discouraged anyone from attempting to provide arms to the Syrian government during the civil crisis.
“We’ve had discussions with Russia about that specifically and I’m pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has now turned back apparently towards Russia.”
Riad al Assad, commander of the Free Syrian Army, tweeted mockingly that Russia is acting like the Soviet Union during the cold war: “Breaking news #Syria Russian cargo vessel carrying arms and attack helicopters has started its journey back to the USSR”.
The attack helicopters being mentioned could be a variant of the Mil Mi-35, the export version of the Mi-24. The Brazilian air force has recently bought twelve Mi-35’s as part of its modernisation programme.
The Brazilian government uses the Mi-35 for a number of roles; air policing, border security and counter-narcotics operations.
If it is true that the Syrian government are trying to get hold of Attack Helicopters it reveals a lot about how they view the conflict panning out over the coming weeks.
One Mi-35 costs roughly $25 million (£15.9 million). So the procurement of several of these helicopters is no small investment by the Syrian government. It suggests that the current strategy being used is not entirely effective and that the Free Syrian army are using insurgent tactics that have been successful in other conflicts. From this, it could be inferred that the Syrian government is preparing for a protracted war. Continue reading