I've speculated that Assad could survive if he contracts his realm into a core of Syria that stretches from the Turkish border (excluding Aleppo) and arcing south through Damascus around Lebanon and reaching the Israeli and Jordanian borders. This would preserve the ability to argue they are the continuation of Syria and have infrastructure to have a chance of surviving. This would be Plan B.
The Sunni majority would be reduced to a manageable size for the security forces available to Assad, and Assad would continue to have a choke hold on land access to Lebanon and options for foreign policy regarding Israel and Jordan. This would make them valuable to Russia and Iran. Assad would lose options on Iraq, but they lost that war anyway.
But Strategypage provides information that casts doubt on Assad's ability to carry out Plan B:
The government is using its most trusted (largely Alawite) troops in Aleppo, an indication that most of the regular army is either gone (deserted) or now considered too unreliable to fight. ...
In the last few months, more and more of the non-Alawites have joined the rebels, fought alongside them and made it clear that the Alawites were on their own. Even some Alawites have either joined the rebels while others have opened negotiations to determine terms of local surrender. While Assad still has loyalists, their numbers, and reliability are declining. ...
There are less than 100,000 reliable soldiers and secret police. But over 20,000 armed militia have been raised from loyal (especially Alawite) populations. These gunmen are less disciplined and more prone to harsh treatment of rebel civilians. The militias are local forces defending their homes and families. Increasingly, the Alawite militias are organizing departures from Syria, or negotiations with local rebels about what it would cost to survive a rebel victory. ...
Russia announced that if its navy personnel in their naval base at Tartus were attacked by Syrian rebels, Russia would shut down their base and withdraw from Syria.
The rest of the army, they say, has largely "melted away." Which at least would avoid the problem of units defecting in place and seizing control of their bases. And it frees loyal units from the need to guard the suspect units.
But that's all the good news.
With only 120,000 loyal security forces, Assad can't hold a Core Syria of 10 million people (with about 5 million Sunnis left after some strategic ethnic cleansing to secure vital areas and lines of communication.
Worse, Russia just signaled it won't go to the mat for Assad. That announcement pretty much guarantees that the rebels will at least fire in the direction of the Russian base to get the Russians out.
And if even Alawites are looking for the exits and seeking to cut deals with the rebels, Plan B is even more shaky.
Assad may only have Plan C left--retreating to the true core areas of the Alawites, stretching from Aleppo to the coastal regions down to Lebanon. This lacks the infrastructure of Core Syria. Fighting for Aleppo makes more sense looking at it this way.
I suppose there is another bit of good news in all this. June saw 3,000 deaths in Syria and July should double that (far exceeding the worst months of the Iraq insurgencies in late 2006). If Alawite militia brutality angers the Sunnis enough, Alawites thinking of cutting deals may have no choice but to go along with Assad's fight-to-the-death strategy out of sheer survival instincts.
Using chemical weapons against rebels would make sense with this type of thinking, I might add.
Or Assad may have no strategy other than to fight with as much as he has for as much as he can hold, and hope for the best.
Oh, and the Syrians didn't shoot down that Turkish F-4 as a warning to keep out--it apparently went down all on its own.
UPDATE: Assad plays the Jewish and Sunni cards:
"Israel is the mastermind of all in this crisis," [Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-]Moallem told a joint news conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi . "They (Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) are fighting in the same front."
Remember, only the Alawites have to believe this if it gets them to fight to the death for Assad.
UPDATE: Do the Christians feel their survival rests on Assad's victory?
As evidence mounts that foreign Islamists are fighting alongside Syria’s increasingly radicalized rebels, Christians in Aleppo and elsewhere are taking up arms, often supplied by the regime.
So what about the Alawites?