Weeks of Russian airstrikes in Syria appear to have restored enough momentum to the government side to convince President Bashar Assad’s foes and the world community that even if he doesn’t win the war he cannot quickly be removed by force.

That realization, combined with the growing sense that the world’s No. 1 priority is the destruction of the Islamic State group, has led many to acknowledge that however unpalatable his conduct of the war, Assad will have to be tolerated for at least some time further.

The most dramatic sign of that came Tuesday with the statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Assad’s future will be determined by the Syrian people, suggesting in the clearest way yet that he can stay on for now and be part of a transition. […]