Russia seems ready to back Assad to the end even if he can't hold Syria:
Russia may lower the profile of its presence in terms of the number of Russian citizens residing in Syria, but in terms of military aid and other support, "things will continue as usual."
"It is important for the Kremlin to demonstrate that it is a reliable ally and support the regime until it collapses," asserted Cohen.
I don't think the Russians will give up that easily when you consider their interests in the region:
"The Russians see the Eastern Mediterranean as an external tier of power projection away from its borders," extending into Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, said Cohen, adding that it protects its borders with a "forward defense" of sorts. Greece, Cyprus, Syria and Egypt are Russia's priorities in developing naval and military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, he said.
Perhaps Russia will start thinking of a post-Syria Assad rather than a post-Assad Syria (as I thought could be an interim step as an alternative to thinking Iran could solve the problem there) that they can do something to support in order to keep their toe hold in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Iran has a similar outlook for what is important to hold.
Of course, years of civil war have strengthened the jihadis and weakened the Assad regime. So what might have been possible years ago might not be possible now.
But Putin and the Iranian mullahs probably are willing to fight to the last pro-Assad Syrian to see if it might work.
Russia and Iran now appear willing to take the political hit at home for abandoning the Assads because less cash for the Assads means more money spent on the needs of Russian and Iranian civilians. Already Russia has pulled over a hundred technical advisors out of Syria.
Is this a matter of Russia and Iran preparing to abandon Assad?
Or is it a bit of pressure to compel Assad to contract his realm to one that still benefits Russia and Iran without the price tag of futilely trying to maintain the fiction that Assad has authority over all of Syria's territory and will soon roll back rebel and jihadi gains?
UPDATE: Syrian officials are trying to bolster the morale of their troops:
Syria's defense minister has visited army units to the east of Homs city, state television reported on Thursday, in what appeared to be the latest in a series of morale-boosting trips by senior officials to military outposts.
There have been other visits to other places.
They need this boost since their enemies are inflicting defeats on them:
Islamic State group jihadists, emboldened by a string of battlefield victories, advanced Thursday to the gates of the Syrian city of Hasakeh after intense fighting with regime troops.
That city is in Syria's northeast, well beyond any core Syria that Assad might try to hold in the west.
Interestingly enough, the article also says that many thousands of Shia fighters sent by Iraq and Iran have arrived to help defend Damascus. From shock troops to leading Assad's offensives to the only reliable defenders of this high priority place? That doesn't say anything good about the steadiness of Assad's troops.
As I've said, Assad has many potential Dien Bien Phu defeats.