Iran Won't Start War, General Says as Drill Targets Mock U.S. Carrier

The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has said his forces are defensive and will not start a conflict with any of Tehran's enemies, even as IRGC troops conducted drills attacking a mock U.S. aircraft carrier near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Major General Hossein Salami told reporters Tuesday that Iran "will never launch an offensive against any country," claiming its forces are purely "defensive" in the country's overall strategy, according to the state-run Press TV channel.

Bu Salami also said Iranian troops are "fully offensive" on a tactical level and remain prepared for any necessary operations in the area.

Salami was speaking during the closing stages of large-scale aerial and naval military drills in the area around the Strait of Hormuz—a key waterway that links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and through which some 30 percent of the world's oil must pass.

On Tuesday, Iranian forces launched an "all-out and multi-layer" attack on a life-size replica of an American Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Strait, in a pointed demonstration of the IRGC's defensive capabilities.

State television broadcast images of Iranian commandos rappelling down from a helicopter onto the replica's deck as fast boats encircled the mock carrier. Military divers also appeared to use explosives to blow holes in the replica's hull, while a helicopter also launched a missile at the mock-up.

Salami told reporters that the exercises show how the IRGC is "turning the tables" on adversaries by understanding "the enemy's points of weakness and strength."

This is not the first time that Iran has used a mock-up U.S. carrier for military exercises. In 2015, Iranian forces sunk a replica American Nimitz-class carrier in the Strait of Hormuz.

The latest drill comes amid continued tensions between Tehran and Washington, D.C., as President Donald Trump's administration continues its "maximum pressure" offensive against the regime, seeking to undermine the Islamic Republic through economic sanctions.

The IRGC is also conducting the exercises—which wrap up Wednesday—soon after the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier entered regional waters last week from the Indian Ocean. It is not clear whether the Nimitz will pass through the Strait of Hormuz while in the area.

Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, told Newsweek in an emailed statement that American forces were aware of the Iranian exercises in the nearby Strait.

"While we are always watchful of this type of irresponsible and reckless behavior by Iran in the vicinity of busy international waterways, this exercise has not disrupted coalition operations in the area nor had any impacts to the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and surrounding waters," she said.

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This file photo shows Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Major General Hossein Salami during a pro-government rally in the capital Tehran's central Enghelab Square on November 25, 2019. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty