Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia is ready to scale up its military intervention in Syria, less than a day after Moscow signed off on an ambitious UN plan to end the war. The peace roadmap lays out a two-year path to elections for a new government, starting with a January ceasefire, and marks the first time America and Russia have reached broad consensus on Syria’s future after years of conflict that has cost more than 250,000 lives and made millions more into refugees. But the pact was so broad that it sidestepped one of the biggest questions at the heart of Syria’s troubles, the future of President Bashar al-Assad, and several other key issues. It was also drawn up without consulting Assad or the opposition groups fighting him on the ground. The question of whether, when and how the Syrian leader might step down will hang over any attempts to broker long-term peace. The US says he must go, while Russia has doubled down on support for him, sending bombers, weapons and cash to support his troops. “He’s in control of two-thirds of the populated areas of Syria, he has not been defeated on the battlefield, he has the support of all the minorities, as well as the secular Sunnis,” Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria told the BBC after the deal was agreed. “It’s absurd to think that the Russians have come so far with this process only to throw Assad under the bus; it’s not going to happen.” Less than 24 hours after committing to peace in Syria, Putin himself said top commanders were ready to join the bomber pilots, support forces and other Russian troops already backing up Assad on the ground. “We see how efficiently our pilots and intelligence agents coordinate their efforts with various kinds of forces – the army, navy and aviation, how they use the most modern weapons,” Reuters quoted him saying in a speech carried by local agencies. “I want to stress that these are by far not all of our capabilities,” he said. “We have more military means. And we will use them, if need be.” The deal exposes a widening gap between concerns of world powers and Syrians themselves. Diplomats and generals from Moscow to Washington are increasingly focused on containing and ultimately destroying Isis. Syrians are generally more preoccupied with Assad’s fate, whether they support their leader or bitterly oppose him. Opposition groups will not agree to a political transition that includes Assad, a senior Syrian defector representing a spectrum of opposition groups warned. Security Council resolutions and a road map agreed in Geneva provide for his removal, Riad Hijab told reporters on Friday. “We are going into negotiations on this principle, we are not entering talks [based on] anything else. There will be no concession,” said Hijab, who served as prime minister under Assad in 2012 before defecting. Critics point out that his bombing raids have killed many thousands more Syrian civilians than Isis, sometimes by using chemical weapons and often with cruelly indiscriminate barrel bombs. Many of the opposition fighters also spent time in his regime’s jails, where torture is widespread. They also raise his apparent financial complicity with Isis, with oil purchases documented by US officials who recently condemned several firms for their role in the trade. Another senior Syrian exile who represents the main western-backed opposition group warned that the deadline for a January ceasefire was too ambitious, the Associated Press reported. Najib Ghadbian also said any agreement must include “the removal of all foreign troops from Syria”, including Russians who have been running an airstrike campaign that has allowed Assad to make key advances. Assad’s supporters argue that he is the only secular bulwark against an opposition increasingly dominated by Islamists. They warn that removing him now could bring even more chaos and violence, as the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi did in nearby Libya, a concern shared by Washington. Russia and the US have drawn somewhat closer after Moscow conceded that Assad might one day cede power, possibly to a close but less tainted ally, or if he is voted out in an election, while Washington stepped back from demands for his immediate removal. Kerry said “everyone” had by now realized that demanding Assad’s departure up front in the process was “in fact, prolonging the war”, adding however that differences remain and the Syrian leader could not unite his country. Iran has also promised to line up behind Moscow, in the push for a political deal to end the civil war, after Putin met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, a senior Iranian official told Reuters. “What was agreed was Iran and Russia will pursue one policy which will benefit Tehran, Moscow and Damascus,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The two countries are in “full harmony over Syria and Assad’s fate”, a second official said. The US insistence that Assad must eventually go is backed by its European allies, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who have long insisted that Assad must go, although there are disputes about when. Ministers from 17 nations who were in New York to build momentum for a ceasefire said they would meet again next month. Among the difficult topics on the table are which groups should be allowed into the opposition tent and which should banned as terrorists; Jordan will lead development of the list. Most parties to the conflict, from Assad to hardline opposition groups, are reliant to varying degrees on weapons, military support and cash from outside the country. Threats to withhold these should give the west and regional powers some leverage. Even if the ceasefire is embraced by many armed groups, it will not end the fighting in Syria however, as there are no expectations that Isis at least would join.