U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea said in a June 27, 2020 interview on Al-Hadath TV (Lebanon) that the Lebanese people are suffering from decades of government corruption and that the U.S. has many concerns regarding the involvement of Hizbullah – which she pointed out is a designated terror organization – in Lebanese governance. She elaborated that Hizbullah has siphoned off billions of dollars that were meant to go into government coffers and into necessary economic reforms, and she added that the U.S. has very serious reservations about the Diab government, in part because of its relationship with Hizbullah.
Following the interview, Lebanese judge Muhammad Mazeh issued a one-year ban preventing local and foreign media outlets in Lebanon from interviewing Ambassador Shea, reportedly explaining that Shea's comments about Hizbullah incited sectarian strife. Lebanese Information Minister Manal Abdel-Samad responded on Twitter that nobody has the right to undermine the freedom of the press, and other sources have said that Mazeh's order is unenforceable.
Dorothy Shea: "The Lebanese people are suffering from the consequences of decades of corruption — irresponsible spending and financial mismanagement by successive governments that promise reforms, but fail to deliver.
"We have grave concerns about the role of Hizbullah, a designated terrorist organization, which has held ministerial positions in this government and in several previous governments. Some call it a 'state within a state.' It has siphoned off billions of dollars that should have gone into government coffers so that the government could provide basic services to its people. And it has obstructed some of the economic reforms that the Lebanese economy so desperately needs.
"What's important now is that the Lebanese government actually take the steps that they've been talking about to end endemic corruption, and to correct the mismanagement that got the economy into this mess."
Interviewer: "What is your evaluation of the Diab government, whose Lebanese opponents accused it of being a public social bubble?"
Shea: "Well the United States is still evaluating the extent to which the Diab government is what it says it is - an independent government of technocrats, not beholden to Hizbullah. But there were concerns about the way the government was formed, and I think Hizbullah was the first to endorse it, so we continue to have very serious reservations in this regard."
Interviewer: "Nasrallah lately appeared threatening his opponents inside Lebanon, the Americans, and their interests."
Shea: "Yeah that was very concerning, his threatening language. And we've also noted that the speech was kind of defensive and riddled with classic deflection, blaming everything on the United States when we're Lebanon's largest donor having given $4.9 billion over the last two decades in humanitarian, economic development, and security assistance. And while he accuses us of 'starving Lebanon,' your viewers might be interested to know that just recently the United States announced $13 million in new emergency food aid, targeted at the most vulnerable populations in the country. So, by its actions and by its threats, Hizbullah is destabilizing the country and jeopardizing Lebanon's economic recovery."