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Rick presenting an argument at an Intelligence Squared-US debate:


Intelligence 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.  Rick’s book, “Ally to Adversary,” details his experiences with the Iraqis, from working with them in Baghdad in the 1980’s, to fighting them in Desert Storm. 

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 1990’s 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.

Presentation Topics
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. 

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.