Hezbullah flag
Hezbullah flagReuters

In yet another sign of the simmering tension in Lebanon, a veteran opposition activist and politician, Saleh el-Machnouk, declared that his country was "under occupation" - not by Israel, but by Hezbollah.

In the televised interview - translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) - el-Machnouk referred to the Iranian-backed group's control over the Lebanese state apparatus, claiming that "It [Hezbollah] controls the state [and] the security agencies..." in the manner of an occupying power.

When the interviewer cited Hezbollah's role in fighting Israel, as well as its supposed "victories" in that regard, El-Machnouk brushed aside such claims, pointing out that military victories do not translate into political legitimacy or moral right:

"Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini all had victories. Force is not a criterion for justice or patriotism"

El-Machnouk also broke with the "resistance" narrative used by Hezbollah to justify its heavily-armed presence as an Iranian proxy in the region, maintaining that had the Lebanese military not been hamstrung by Hezbollah and its Syrian allies, the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 would have occurred sooner.

Tensions between Hezbollah - a Shia Islamist militia backed by Iran and the Syrian government - and the Sunni opposition in Lebanon are high, as a result of Hezbollah's military intervention on behalf of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.

Syrian rebels, made up primarily of the Sunni Muslim majority in that country, have been fighting a two year war to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Allawite minority, an offshoot of Shia Islam.