TARGETS AND TIMELINES….Via Tapped, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden seems to be edging toward the “targets and timelines” view of how we should proceed in Iraq. He’s proposing it for the right reason, too:

The administration, Wolf, tries to portray this as just one of two approaches. You can either stay the course with them, or in effect cut and run. I think there are other alternatives that ought to be pursued. For example, one that I’ll be exploring in our intelligence committee is we’ve set deadlines for the Iraqi’s on a constitution. We set deadlines with respect to elections.

….Why not say in an area where we don’t seem to be making a lot of progress in terms of training the Iraqis for their own security, let’s set a deadline there.

That’s exactly right. If it weren’t for the deadlines set down in the transitional law, Iraqi leaders wouldn’t even be close to agreeing on a constitution. Likewise, without a firm deadline they won’t get serious about training their own security forces either.

Not convinced? David Petraeus, the general in charge of training Iraqi troops, apparently learned otherwise last month, as Fred Kaplan reported in this little-noticed piece in Slate:

Some of Petraeus’ aides, if not the general himself, have recently learned of rumors that Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari doesn’t want his army to be well-trained. A leading Shiite, Jaafari reportedly fears that if the U.S. troops leave Iraq, the insurgents will crush all resistance and hoist the Sunnis back to power. Since the Americans have said they will leave once the Iraqi security forces are self-sufficient, Jaafari figures it’s best to keep that day at bay. This could explain why many Iraqi units lack such basic materials as reliable weapons, ammunition, and sufficient food and bedding gear.

One of Petraeus’ aides hit the roof when he heard this rumor of Jaafari’s recalcitrance a few weeks ago. This may be why Rumsfeld seemed more perturbed than usual after his meeting with Jaafari in Baghdad this week. It may be why, for the first time, he brought up the subject of eventually pulling out.

This is, in fact, the best reason for declaring a timetable?to force the Iraqi government to start taking their sovereignty seriously.

It’s noteworthy that in a followup Petraeus’s spokesman mouthed all the appropriate positive sentiments but didn’t specifically deny the rumor. There’s probably good reason for that.

There are plenty of things we need to do in Iraq. I’ve recently posted about plans from Juan Cole, Wes Clark, and Andrew Krepinevich, all of which contain potentially useful ideas. However, any plan has more credibility ? and a better chance of working ? if it also includes firm targets and timelines for success. Timelines for withdrawal need to be adopted in addition to a change of direction in Iraq, not in place of it.