US warship docks in Lebanon on ‘goodwill’ visit amid tensions
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US warship docks in Lebanon on ‘goodwill’ visit amid tensions

USS Ramage’s visit to Beirut signals US ‘commitment’ to Lebanese military, even as Washington applies sanctions on Hezbollah

The US Navy ship USS Ramage in the Atlantic Ocean. (Wikipedia/US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky/Public Domain)
The US Navy ship USS Ramage in the Atlantic Ocean. (Wikipedia/US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky/Public Domain)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The United States navy destroyer USS Ramage docked briefly in Lebanon, the US embassy in Beirut said on Sunday, amid heightened regional tensions.

The Arleigh-Burke-class vessel, capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, stopped Saturday for a “one-day goodwill visit on the sidelines of its participation in ongoing efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and free-flow commerce in the eastern Mediterranean,” a statement from the US embassy said.

US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and Vice Admiral James Malloy hosted “an on-board reception for US and Lebanese officials,” it added.

During the reception, the vice admiral and ambassador underscored “the ongoing commitment of the United States to be a strong and enduring partner for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), with the goals of enhancing military-to-military cooperation and promoting security and stability in the region,” according to the statement.

“This remarkable US ship, docked in this remarkable Lebanese city speaks volumes about the partnership between the US and Lebanese militaries,” Richard said.

United States Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, left, with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, at the government House, in Beirut, Lebanon, on February 19, 2019. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

The US is currently engaged in a standoff with Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has been slapped with US sanctions and classified as a terrorist organization by Washington and much of the West.

Hezbollah is a key player in Lebanese politics, represented both in parliament and the cabinet.

The movement is militarily involved in the war in neighboring Syria, having sent fighters to the aid of the Iran-allied regime of Bashar Assad.

In July, the US imposed sanctions on three senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon, including two lawmakers, in the first such move against members of parliament.

At the end of August, powerful US financial sanctions were imposed on the Jammal Trust Bank in Lebanon, which was accused of acting as a key financial institution for Hezbollah, which seeks Israel’s destruction.

The ship’s docking comes as tensions spike between Hezbollah and Israel, including an attack by Hezbollah against an IDF border patrol and military post on September 1.

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