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Iran’s elite troops attack fake US aircraft carrier

Amid nuclear talks, naval drills are televised to nation

A replica of a US aircraft carrier was blown up by Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats during large-scale naval drills near the entrance of the Persian Gulf.
A replica of a US aircraft carrier was blown up by Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats during large-scale naval drills near the entrance of the Persian Gulf.Tasnim News/AP

TEHRAN — With rockets roaring and guns blazing, more than a dozen swarming Iranian speedboats assaulted a replica of a US aircraft carrier Wednesday during large-scale naval drills near the strategically vital entrance of the Persian Gulf.

The nationally televised show of force by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard comes weeks ahead of a deadline for Iran and world powers to forge a historic deal on the fate of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iranian live-fire war games are not uncommon. But by simulating for the first time an attack on the ultimate symbol of American naval power, hard-liners hoped to send a message that Iran has no intention of backing down to the United States — whichever way talks over its contested nuclear program go.

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‘‘American aircraft carriers are very big ammunition depots housing a lot of missiles, rockets, torpedoes, and everything else,’’ the Guard’s navy chief, Admiral Ali Fadavi, said on state television.

A direct hit by a missile could set off a large secondary explosion, he added.

Fadavi last month boasted that his force is capable of sinking American aircraft carriers in the event of war.

He previously called carriers easy targets and said Iran naturally wants to sink them.

The drill, named ‘‘Great Prophet 9,’’ was held near the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes. Iran’s regular army carried out naval drills near the strait in December.

Tensions near the strait have caused oil prices to spike in the past — good news for producers like Iran. But traders seemed to take Wednesday’s maneuvers in stride.

State TV showed footage of missiles fired from the coast and the fast boats striking the ersatz American carrier, which appeared to be a replica seen in a shipyard in the southern port of Bandar Abbas last year.

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The drills also included Guard forces shooting down a drone and planting undersea mines.

Footage aired Wednesday did not show that the assault had managed to sink the mock-up, but it was heavily damaged.

The Guard’s chief commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the drills send a ‘‘message of [Iran’s] might’’ to ‘‘extraterritorial powers,’’ a reference to the United States.

Commander Kevin Stephens, the spokesman for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said the Americans were monitoring the drills, which had no effect on maritime traffic.

He downplayed the simulated attack on the carrier, saying the US military was ‘‘not concerned about this exercise.’’

‘‘We’re quite confident of our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves,’’ he said. ‘‘It seems they’ve attempted to destroy the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set.’’