Reports that members of the Syrian opposition have obtained weaponry are a worrying development, and threaten the mainstream, peaceful nature of the protests of the last few months. The reports, if they are confirmed, would signal a seismic shift in the struggle, where up to now, a peaceful civilian uprising has overwhelmingly characterised the demonstrations in the villages and towns of Syria since March. For weeks, the Syrian government has resolutely stayed on message namely, that it is facing off against armed, extremist elements. But many observers have rejected this notion, citing the numerous instances of footage showing unarmed demonstrators walking the streets and demanding change, and being confronted by heavily armed army troops and security personnel. The introduction of any armed element into the Syrian equation today will strike a huge blow against Syrian opposition figures as they try to present a cohesive alternative to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The reports of Syrian opposition members getting their hands on anti-tank weaponry and arms that can penetrate bullet-proof vests will only play into the hands of the Syrian authorities, who are quick to argue that no government in the world can afford to be lenient when facing an armed, domestic insurrection. The Damascus government has been able to garner support from Moscow on precisely this score. As many observers have pointed out, the Syrian opposition is divided. Prominent figures from the civil society movement have sought to engage the Syrian authorities in a process of dialogue, and their position will be dramatically undercut if the opposition becomes labelled as an armed group. The Muslim Brotherhood is another element of this opposition in Syria, and the latest reports that its members have begun manning armed checkpoints in the area of the Turkish-Syrian border will also do much to wreck the image that has been painstakingly built so far by the opposition. Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of Syrians fall somewhere in between the categories of pro-government and pro-opposition. They might not be enthusiastic supporters of the popular protests, but they also dont want to see a violent crackdown by their government against people who are demanding change. If elements of the Syrian opposition begin to emerge as confirmed armed elements, the pro-reform camp stands to lose a considerable amount of public support, both domestically and abroad. The Syrian opposition has been battling heroically against charges that it is sectarian in nature, and have carefully selected a series of slogans for their Friday protests. Daily Star