Bashar al-Assad’s navy is shelling the Mediterranean city of Latakia, the “capital” of Syria’s Alawite region. Unlike in the other “Arab spring” countries, the anti-regime demonstrations and the government crackdown have been decidedly sectarian. The governing elite, including Assad himself, is overwhelmingly Alawite, and the demonstrators are overwhelmingly Sunni. But if Assad feels he has to shell Latakia, of all cities, he has a real fight on his hands. That’s a bit like Saddam Hussein sending tanks into Tikrit or the Israelis dropping bombs on Tel Aviv. He’s still likely to win this war as long as his army doesn’t desert him, but I think it’s safe to say that his popularity has never been thinner.