With rockets roaring and guns blazing, more than a dozen swarming Iranian speedboats assaulted a replica of a U.S. 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 just 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 U.S. — whichever way talks over its contested nuclear program go. […]