programmes and activities. Other witnesses spoke of a sense of a ‘creeping tide’ of proliferation and growth in the nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile capabilities of states of concern.
The Prime Minister told us that, even before the attacks of 11 September 2001, his concern in this area was increasingly causing him to examine more proactive policy options. He also described to us the way in which the events of 11 September 2001 led him to conclude that policy had to change. He and other witnesses told us of the impact on policy-making of the changed calculus of threat that emerged from those attacks - of the risk of unconventional weapons in due course becoming available to terrorists and extremists seeking to cause mass casualties unconstrained by the fear of alienating their supporters or the public, or by considerations of personal safety. The Prime Minister’s view was that a stand had to be taken, and a more active policy put in place to prevent the continuing development and proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and technology in breach of the will of the international community. We describe at Chapter 4 the new counter-proliferation machinery put in place in summer 2002 to implement that policy.
The developing policy context of the previous four years, and especially the impact of the events of 11 September 2001, formed the backdrop for changes in policy towards Iraq in early 2002. The Government’s conclusion in the spring of 2002 that stronger action (although not necessarily military action) needed to be taken to enforce Iraqi disarmament was not based on any new development in the current intelligence picture on Iraq. In his evidence to us, the Prime Minister endorsed the view expressed at the time that what had changed was not the pace of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programmes, which had not been dramatically stepped up, but tolerance of them following the attacks of 11 September 2001. When the Government concluded that action going beyond the previous policy of containment needed to be taken, there were many grounds for concern arising from Iraq’s past record and behaviour. There was a clear view that, to be successful, any new action to enforce Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations would need to be backed with the credible threat of force. But there was no recent intelligence that would itself have given rise to a conclusion that Iraq was of more immediate concern than the activities of some other countries.
Other factors clearly influenced the decision to focus on Iraq. The Prime Minister told us that, whilst on some perspectives the activities of other states might be seen as posing more direct challenges to British interests, the Government, as well as being influenced by the concerns of the US Government, saw a need for immediate action on Iraq because of the wider historical and international context, especially Iraq’s perceived continuing challenge to the authority of the United Nations. The Government also saw in the United Nations and a decade of Security Council Resolutions a basis for action through the United Nations to enforce Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations.