The United States' ambassador to Iraq has apologized for the arrest of a leading Iraqi politician's son who was held by American soldiers who were suspicious of his travel between Iraq and Iran.

U.S. troops detained the son of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politician Friday as he returned to the country from Iran, keeping him in custody for nearly 12 hours before releasing him, Shiite officials said. The U.S. ambassador apologized for the arrest.

Amar al-Hakim, son of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, was taken into custody at a crossing point and was transferred to a U.S. facility in Kut, according to the elder al-Hakim's secretary, Jamal al-Sagheer. ...

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the arrest was being investigated but stressed that Washington did not mean any disrespect to al-Hakim or his family.

"I am sorry about the arrest," he said. "We don't know the circumstances of the arrest and we are investigating … but he is being released."

The specifics may not be out yet, but the general circumstances are pretty clear:

U.S. authorities have complained about Iranian weapons sales and financial aid to major Shiite parties in Iraq, especially the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Both Washington and Iraqi leaders have vowed that no one would be exempt as a major security operation is under way in Baghdad.

President Bush should retract the ambassador's apology and issue a statement supporting the American soldiers doing a dangerous job protecting the Iraq-Iran border. Even if the arrest turns out to have been unnecessary, we don't need to apologize for vigorous border enforcement. Our troops aren't in Iraq fighting and dying so that Amar al-Hakim can shuttle back and forth to Iran uninspected.

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