The Obama administration has not pulled back on its “Assad must go” ultimatum, first voiced by Obama in August 2011, but recent comments suggest that the White House could countenance an Assad role in a transition administration.

“It doesn’t have to be on Day One or Month One,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in London last week when asked about the prospective timing of Assad’s leave-taking. “There is a process by which all the parties have to come together and reach an understanding of how this can best be achieved.”

While cloaked in diplomatic-speak, Kerry’s comments are a long way from the definitive denunciations that he made during the last, failed Syria peace negotiations, in early 2014 in Switzerland…

While insisting that Assad must step down, U.S. officials have not publicly suggested a time cap on a prospective transition administration. That could provide wiggle room for an interim leadership blueprint that would put off Assad’s departure until some future, indeterminate date.