Speaking to teachers on Wednesday, the Supreme Leader stepped up his rhetoric against the US, with Iran’s nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers at a critical stage:

Ayatollah Khamenei asserted, “Recently two US officials threatened to take military action against Iran,” and connected the claim to the nuclear discussions, which are drafting the final text of a comprehensive agreement to be reached by a June 30 deadline: “What does negotiation mean under ghost of a threat?”

The Supreme Leader did not name the US officials, but Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a Congressional hearing last month, “We have the capability to shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that.”

Carter referred to the US military’s most powerful ground-penetrating “bunker-buster” bomb, the Massive Ordinance Penetrator.

Iran’s drafting of the nuclear text with the European Union’s Helga Schmid adjourned on Tuesday in New York after six days. Discussions between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) resume on May 12 in Vienna.

Claiming that other nations admire Iranian “resistance”, the Supreme Leader also denounced the US over the crisis in Yemen:

Supreme Leader Adopts Northern Irish Hunger Striker to Bash Britain & “Empires”

In an intervention on social media on Tuesday, the Supreme Leader’s office invoked Northern Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands, who died in 1981, to criticize Britain and “global domineering empires”.

A member of the Irish Republican Army, Sands passed away after 66 days without food, in a protest over prison conditions with the demand to be labelled a prisoner of war.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s office marked the 34th anniversary of Sands’ death with a series of tweets:

Amid Iran’s nuclear talks with Britain, the US, and other powers and conflicts in the Middle East, Khamenei’s offered no specific political reason for the Twitter blast. Instead, it appeared to be part of an annual ritual, repeating the message from 2014:

The Iranian regime has regularly denounced Britain as an ally of Tehran’s American foe. However, the Islamic Republic has also been in talks with London to reopen Embassies in each other’s countries.

The British Embassy in Tehran was shut after the complex was overrun by a crowd in November 2011. Britain responded by ordering the closure of the Iranian Embassy and the departure of all diplomats.

In the latest shadow-boxing over naval presence in the Persian Gulf and along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran’s military is declaring that it forced a US warship and military planes to retreat in the Gulf of Aden.

Fars News, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, says the US destroyer and two reconnasissance planes changed its direction after it came close to Iranian ships and was warned to move away.

“Checking foreign warships in the international waters and surveilling potential threats to Iran’s national interests is our essential responsibility,” the commander of the Iranian flotilla, Commodore Mostafa Tajeddini, said.

The US said last month that it was positioning warships in the area to prevent Iran from supplying weapons to Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthi) movement, which is facing a Saudi-led aerial intervention as it challenges other Yemeni factions.

Tehran has insisted that its ships did not withdraw, saying that they are conducting “anit-piracy patrols” in the Gulf and the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Meanwhile, the commander of the Iranian navy said that a US-owned ship and its 34-member crew, forced by patrol boats into the southern Iran port of Bandar Abbas last week, will be freed after its owner pays debts to Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization.

Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, “According to the court ruling issued in the case involving this ship, it will be released after paying the compensation money to the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Iranian officials say that the Maersk Line Shipping Company, based in Denmark, owes more than $10 million to an Iranian oil products company for undelivered containers.