State Department is making noises about willingness to abandon regime change and settle for a 'mere' partition of Syria, but Russia is having none of it
It wasn't so long ago that London was accusing Russia of plotting to partition Syria. The context of the allegation was that supposedly Russia has begun to see it will not be able to win in Syria and had now settled for carving out an Alawite mini state for Assad.
Yet three weeks later and one Turkey-rebel supply route less and it's Washington which is talking up partition instead. And furthermore doing so from a position of weakness that UK's Philip Hammond had been earlier deluding himself that the Russians were working from.
What was specifically notable about Kerry bringing up partition was that he explicitly said this is "plan B" if "if a genuine shift to a transitional government does not take place".
Depending on your interpretation this means that either Kerry is either making a petulant threat that if Assad does not go the US will break up the country, or else he is lowering the expectations in Washington explaining that with Russia involved removing Assad may no longer realistic and that carving out a mini state for its terrorists in a corner of Syria may be the best Uncle Sam can deliver.
But even as he was saying that Kerry was careful to point out that Russian cooperation would be needed even for this fallback US objective: "“this can get a lot uglier and Russia has to be sitting there evaluating that too."
The western media deluded about realities of the situation suggested that Russians would jump at this opportunity, The Guardian accompanied this quote of Kerry's with: "It is the first time Kerry has spoken of partition, although some believe Putin would be content to see this happen."
Russians of course, were instead scandalized by the suggestion and have signaled they won't be a party to that either, or ever allow it to happen. Russian FM Lavrov: "We've already said everything on the ‘plan B’ - there never was one and there never will be."
Nope John Kerry, you can not have even your limited goal of "Assad must go from parts of Syria".