Thomas sees the bin Laden tape in a potentially positive light. "I think that it will be interpreted on the Arab street as a sign of weakness," he says. "Because after all he said, 'I'm ready to accept a cease-fire.' This is not the bin Laden they have come to know and, in some cases, respect. When you think you're winning, embracing cease-fire is not the first thing on your mind."
But Thomas warns that taking bin Laden at his word is not a good idea. "What bin Laden is after, ultimately, is an American withdrawal before completing any kind of democratization process in Iraq or Afghanistan. He sees the way to do that as encouraging those voices in the United States who want to get out. He's hoping to stoke up some debate here, for people to say, 'Look we can leave, he wants a cease-fire.'"