US warship docks in Lebanon amid rising regional tensions
Visit by destroyer 'USS Ramage' underscores ongoing support for Lebanese army, US embassy says
The United States Navy destroyer USS Ramage docked briefly in Lebanon over the weekend amid heightened regional tension.
The Arleigh-Burke-class vessel, capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, stopped in Beirut on 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", the US embassy said.
US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and Vice Admiral James Malloy hosted a reception aboard the USS Ramage on Saturday evening, a day after a French warship docked in Beirut port for a routine visit.
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, with the goals of enhancing military-to-military co-operation and promoting security and stability in the region", according the US Embassy statement.
The US has provided more than $2 billion (Dh7.35bn) in assistance to the LAF since 2005.
Local television channel LBCI reported that Iran-backed Hezbollah was the only Lebanese party to not be invited on board the USS Ramage.
The ship’s docking comes just a few weeks before the anniversary of the 1983 bombings in Beirut that killed 241 US military personnel and 58 French members of an international peacekeeping force. Hezbollah involvement was strongly suspected.
No US navy destroyer had docked in Beirut port since the bombings, a Lebanese military source told The National.
The US administration is currently engaged in a stand-off with Iran and Hezbollah.
Two MPs from the group, classified as a terrorist organisation by Washington, were slapped with US sanctions for the first time in July.
Tension between Israel and Hezbollah has spiked, including an exchange of cross-border fire on September 1, as Israel intensifies its crackdown on Iran-backed groups across the region.
Updated: September 16, 2019 09:41 AM