Rick presenting an argument
at an Intelligence Squared-US debate:
officer, media analyst, author
Combat operations, covert
action, clandestine intelligence missions, diplomatic assignments...Rick
Francona brings over twenty-five years of political-military experience
in the Middle East to his analysis of the challenges for American foreign
policy in this volatile yet critical region.
Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona
is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, having served with the
National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central
Intelligence Agency. His tours of duty include Iraq, Syria, Jordan,
Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, with operational travel in virtually every country
in the Middle East.
During the last year of the
Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Rick served at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as a
liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces intelligence service, where he
served in the field with the Iraqi army and flew with the Iraqi Air Force.
His personal observations were critical to discovering Iraqi chemical weapons
use against Iranian troops. Throughout the first Gulf War he served
as the personal interpreter and advisor on Iraq to General Norman Schwarzkopf.
Rickís book, ďAlly to Adversary,Ē details his experiences with the Iraqis,
from working with them in Baghdad in the 1980ís, to fighting them in Desert
After the war, he served
in northern Iraq with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he narrowly
escaped an attempt on his life by Iraqi agents. During these operations,
Rick participated in the attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the 1990ís
and was involved in the escape of an Iraqi scientist and his family from
Iraq to freedom in the United States.
Rick also served as the first
air attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria.
From 2003 to 2008, Rick was a Middle East military analyst for NBC News. In addition, Rick
has spoken to numerous conventions and educational institutions.
Topics Syria - Prospects for the Future As the Air Attaché to the American Embassy in Damascus, Rick gained a thorough understanding of Syrian dynamics. His personal experience living and working in the country provides a unique perspective that goes beyond the media coverage. Still in contact with people on both side of the conflict, Rick explains the historical, cultural, religious, economic and political forces at play and postulates what might happen in this fact-moving situation.
Iran – Nukes or Kooks?
It can be argued that since
1945, American foreign policy in the Middle East - specifically the Gulf
- has been about Iran. It has colored almost all of our policy decisions,
and the future will likely be no different. As we have just seen
in the recent war in Lebanon, Iranian influence is not only present, but
on the rise. Rick has watched - with his own eyes - Iranian operations
in the Gulf, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. With his unique background,
Rick puts into context a problem Americans must address.
Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East
The Barack Obama administration faces with a host of challenges in the Middle East - war in Afghanistan, aftermath of the Iraq withdrawal, stalled Middle East peace process, ascendancy of Iran as a regional power broker, piracy on oil shipping lanes, etc. There are opportunities here to address many of theses issues. With decades of experience in the region, Rick offers some advice to the young President.
The Levant – Can't we all just get
As recent events have shown,
the Levant - Israel, Lebanon and Syria - continues to be a volatile region
with the potential to destabilize the entire Middle East. Since the partition
of Palestine in 1948, conflicts continue between Israel and its neighbors,
between Arab countries, with Iran stirring the pot. With first-hand
experience in these countries - arrested and detained in two - Rick is
uniquely qualified to delve into the roots of the conflict in a gripping,
direct, factual, but no-holds-barred manner.
Oil and Water – The Other Tap
America's - and the West's
- vital interest in the Middle East is often cited as access to oil - a
fair statement. The Middle East itself is more concerned with another tap
- the water tap. Rick takes a critical view at the often overlooked regional
obsession with access to water. Look at Israeli interests in the
Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley, southern Lebanon - why is the Litani
River the area of interest? - Egypt and the NIle, the intricate almost
Byzantine rules regarding the Euphrates River and its links to terrorism.
Access to water resources in the Middle East is a major political and foreign
policy issue for countries in the region, just as access to oil is a political
and foreign policy issue in the west.
Iraq – From the Ottomans to after the Americans
An artificial country created
in the aftermath of World War I combining disparate ethnic and religious
groups, Iraq’s history is one of bloodshed – Turkish, British, Arab, Kurdish,
Persian and American. Rick was personally involved in the relationship
between Iraq and the United States since the 1980’s. Not a history lesson,
but a stimulating look at how and why the American relationship with Baghdad
has brought us to where we are today. Often humorous, often critical,
always pointed, Rick goes beyond the headlines and brings the story to
life. After all, he lived it.
The "Islam Bomb"
Most people in the West
are focused on current Iranian efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Israel took military action to cripple Iraq's efforts to develop the bomb
- Libya was well on its way. Another Muslim country with a fragile
pro-West leader - Pakistan - already has a nuclear arsenal and the means
to deliver the weapons. There has always been the fear of the "Islam bomb."
The real Islam bomb is not a nuclear weapon - it is the birth rate.
Muslims, particularly the Shi'a, have changed the demographics in Lebanon
in three generations - the formerly majority Christian country is now a
majority Muslim country. In Israel, there is the danger that if current
trends continue, Israel will be an Arab country in the next two generations.
Middle East Terrorism and Its Challenges for American Law Enforcement
Terrorism and the Middle East seem to go hand-in-hand, but is there still a domestic threat to the United States? Rick examines the roots of terrorism in the region, a brief overview of the "spillover" events that have touched both America and Americans, provides an analysis of potential future threats, and address the challenges law enforcement in this country faces when dealing with them.