• This is a partial transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," August 12, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Iran's Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered Muslims across the world this week to support Hezbollah in its ongoing battle against Israel.

    He praised the group's jihad against the Jewish state, describing Israel's offensive in Lebanon and Palestine as a bitter phenomenon, and warnings other Islamic nations that they could meet a similar fate.

    Martin Kramer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He joins me now from Tel Aviv.

    Mr. Kramer, thank you for being on the program. We often hear that Iran and Hezbollah are very closely linked. Just how close are they? Can Hezbollah act independently on something like Lebanon without Iran's approval?

    MARTIN KRAMER, FELLOW, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE OF NEAR EAST POLICY: Well, the link is very intimate. And it goes back a very long way, even to the first days of the Iranian revolution.

    The Iranians at the time, Ayatollah Khamenei, sent his emissaries throughout the Muslim world, especially among the Shiites to win support.

    There was a strong push back in many of the other states because the regimes opposed it. But in Lebanon, there was a civil war at the time and no one to oppose it.

    So Iran built up Hezbollah really from scratch. And although there have been ups and downs in the degree of intimacy of the relationship, I think it has actually gotten more intimate, of late, as Iran approaches a possible crisis with the West over its nuclear capabilities.

    GIGOT: Do you believe that Hezbollah would have struck Israel the way it did without Iran's approval?

    KRAMER: I think Iran had given a blanket approval for operations along Israel's border in order to keep that on a simmer. Now, the precise modus vivendi in any given situation, when to attack, when to strike, was pretty much left to Hezbollah.

    I think that actually, in this respect, it might have been an Iranian mistake to have not corrected their standing instructions to Hezbollah because they effectively provoked Israel into launching a large scale offensive, which from Iran's point of view, is badly timed.

    I think Iran wanted to use the capabilities of Hezbollah that you see on display now, the rockets and the guerrilla fighters, at a later time, and a mega-crisis over Iran's nuclear capabilities.

    But Israel chose the time for this war, not Hezbollah, effectively. And so, to some extent, it's been a strategic step back for the Iranians.

    GIGOT: But there's some people who said that the timing was actually appropriate for Iran. That they would have liked it to happen when it did because of the G-8 summit, which was going on and focused on Iran's nuclear program.

    And this attack has really changed the world's discussion about the Middle East for the last month or so. Wasn't the timing helpful for Iran?

    KRAMER: I think that in the scale of things, it would have been much more advantageous for Iran to have had this kind of war in the very midst of tremendous U.S. pressure, perhaps even U.S. military action against Iran.

    And that's exactly what Saddam Hussein tried to do. He tried to turn a confrontation over his WMD into a general conflagration in the Middle East.

    I think that would have been Iran's goal, in the midst of a crisis to say, here, it's not just the United States and the Arab state against us. We're going to undercut the Arab states by bringing up popular support for resistance to Israel.

    So in a way I think it made sense for Israel to say, look, we want to split this campaign against Iran into its parts. First, deal with Hezbollah. And later, at another stage, deal with Iran, and not have those two campaigns waged together.