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Middle East

U.S. puzzled by Iran’s mock-up of an aircraft carrier

A handout picture released by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 21, 2014 shows him addressing thousands of Iranian in the northeast holy city of Mashhad as they celebrate Noruz, the Persian New Year. (AFP PHOTO/HO/IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER'S WEBSITE)

WASHINGTON: Iran is building a crude mock-up of an American aircraft carrier at a ship yard on its Gulf coast and U.S. officials said Friday the goal of the project remains a mystery.

Iran has made no attempt to hide its “curious” construction effort near Bandar Abbas on the Gulf, as commercial satellite imagery has shown a vessel gradually taking shape, resembling the outlines of a Nimitz-class carrier, three administration officials said.

“They got this barge and threw some wood on top of it to make it look like the USS Nimitz. That’s all we know for sure,” a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

“We think they’re going to try to get some propaganda value out of it,” he said. “We find it very curious ...We don’t know what Iran hopes to gain by building it.”

Defense officials stressed that the vessel was not a working aircraft carrier, had no nuclear propulsion system and was essentially a barge outfitted to look – but not operate – like a carrier.

The project was first reported by the New York Times, which quoted officials speculating the Iranians may blow up the fake carrier for television cameras as a propaganda exercise.

“It is not surprising that Iranian naval forces might use a variety of tactics – including military deception tactics – to communicate and possibly demonstrate their resolve in the region,” said a third U.S. official, who asked not to be named.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 22, 2014, on page 12.

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