Lt. Colonel Rick Francona

Lt. Colonel Rick Francona

Retired US Air Force, Intelligence Officer, Media Analyst, and Author

Speaker Categories: Middle East | Military | Analysts/Strategists | Military Background | Patriotism | Military | Asia | International Affairs | Global Economy & Emerging Markets

Travels From: CA, United States.

Speaker Fee Range: $5,000 to $10,000*

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Lt. Colonel Rick Francona Bio
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US Air Force Intelligence Officer, Media Analyst, and Author

Lt Col Francona enlisted in the Air Force in 1970, and served as a Vietnamese linguist until 1973, conducting aerial reconnaissance missions over Vietnam and Laos.  After Arabic language training, he served at a variety of locations in the Middle East from 1975 to 1977, and supported the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in 1976.  In 1978, he became an Arabic language instructor at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

Following his commissioning in 1979, Lt Col Francona was an instructor at the Air Force intelligence school in Denver, Colorado.  From 1982 to 1984, he was a Middle East operations officer with the National Security Agency.  In 1984, he was assigned as an advisor to the Royal Jordanian Air Force in Amman, Jordan.

In 1987, Lt Col Francona was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as the assistant Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East.  During this assignment, he spent much of 1987 and 1988 at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces directorate of military intelligence. Lt Col Francona traveled extensively as an observer of Iraqi combat operations against Iranian forces, and flew sorties with the Iraqi air force.

Immediately following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August, 1990 and through the Gulf War, Lt Col Francona was deployed to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf as the advisor on Iraqi armed forces and personal interpreter to commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Norman Schwarzkopf.  As such, he was the lead interpreter for ceasefire talks with the Iraqi military at Safwan, Iraq, in March, 1991.

After the end of the Gulf War, the colonel served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and was a principal author of the Department of Defense report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf war.  In 1992, he was selected to be the first air attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, returning to the United States in early 1995. 

From 1995 to 1996, Lt Col Francona served with the Central Intelligence Agency, and participated in a variety of sensitive operations in the Middle East, including the extraction of an Iraqi scientist's family.   During one of these operations, he survived an attempt on his life by Iraqi intelligence service agents. 

In 1996, the colonel was selected to develop the Department of Defense counterterrorism intelligence branch.  In late 1997, the colonel led a special operations team supporting NATO forces in Bosnia - capturing five indicted war criminals. His book about that operation will be published in 2012..

Colonel Francona returned to the United States and retired from active duty in 1998.

Since retiring from the Air Force, Lt Col Francona has written Ally to Adversary: An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace, and consulted with government and private firms.  From 2003 to 2008, he was a media analyst on Middle East political-military events for NBC News, and appeared regularly on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, MSNBC, CNBC, Hardball, Countdown, and others.

The colonel has a bachelors degree in government and the Arabic language, and a masters degree in international relations with a concentration in Middle East studies.  His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, and nine Air Medals, as well as campaign awards for service in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the Balkans.  The colonel was awarded the Central Intelligence Agency Seal Bronze Medallion for his service with that agency.  In 2006, Lt Col Francona was inducted into the Defense Language Institute Hall of Fame.

Areas of Expertise: American Politics and Current Affairs, Analysts/Strategists, Military Background, Patriotism, International Affairs & Business, Global Economy & Trade, Middle East Affairs, and Media & Current Events.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East for the New Administration

As the Barack Obama administration takes office, it will be faces with a host of challenges in the Middle East - war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 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 new President.

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.

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.

Iraq – From the Ottomans to 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.
  • Ally to Adversary: An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace
    Ally to Adversary: An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace Purchase Book
  • Chasing Demons: My Hunt For War Criminals In Bosnia
    Chasing Demons: My Hunt For War Criminals In Bosnia Purchase Book

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Recent Books

  • Ally to Adversary: An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace
    Ally to Adversary: An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace Purchase Book
  • Chasing Demons: My Hunt For War Criminals In Bosnia
    Chasing Demons: My Hunt For War Criminals In Bosnia Purchase Book
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