Retired US Air Force, Intelligence Officer,
Media Analyst, and Author
With 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.
Middle East Expert
A dynamic speaker, author of Ally to Adversary – An Eyewitness Account of Iraq’s Fall from Grace, retired USAF intelligence officer and Middle East specialist Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona provides analysis and commentary on various Middle East topics.
Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, and service in the Balkans. His assignments include the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, with tours of duty in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, and operational duties in virtually every country in the Middle East.
During the last year of the Iran–Iraq war in 1988, Rick was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces intelligence service, where he observed field operations of the Iraqi Army. Throughout the first Gulf War he served as the personal Arabic interpreter and advisor on Iraq to General Norman Schwarzkopf and later co-authored the report to Congress on the conduct of the war.
Central Intelligence Agency
Following the Gulf War, Rick served as the first air attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria until 1995. In 1995 and 1996, Rick served in northern Iraq with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life by Iraqi agents. During that tour, he was involved in the extraction of an Iraqi nuclear scientist’s family from Baghdad.
Department of Defence
In 1997 and 1998, he served in the Department of Defense counter terrorism branch and led a special operations team in Bosnia that captured five indicted war criminals. That hunt is the topic of Rick’s latest book, Chasing Demons – My Hunt for War Criminals in Bosnia.
From 2003 to 2007, Rick was an on-air military analyst for NBC News, appearing on NBC News, Today, CNBC and MSNBC. From 2013 to 2019, he was a military analyst for CNN. He currently conducts seminars and workshops for a variety of government and commercial organizations.
Syria - the Civil War and 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 the various sides 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
Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East
The next U.S. administration faces a host of challenges in the Middle East - continuing war in Afghanistan, the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), stalled Middle East peace process, ascendancy of Iran as a regional power broker, etc. There are opportunities here to address many of theses issues. With decades of experience in the region, Rick offers some advice to the new President.
The Levant – Can't we all just get along?
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
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.
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.
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.