Middle East Expert Rick Francona to Speak at Cazenovia Forum 

30 Mar

 unnamedCAZENOVIA, NY – Middle East expert and network news analyst Rick Francona will offer his perspectives on the explosive situation in Syria when he delivers 2014′s first Cazenovia Forum lecture on Friday, May 2, 2014, at 7:00 pm at the Catherine Cummings Theatre on Lincklaen Street.

His presentation is titled “Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East: The Case of
Syria.” The event is free of charge and no reservations are required. An open reception will follow the talk.

Francona is a media analyst on Middle East political-military events, appearing on CNN, NBC News, the Today Show, MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Scarborough Country and others. He also writes articles for MSNBC, the Council on Foreign Relations, and his blog, “Middle East Perspectives.”

Francona is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, and has served in the Balkans. His assignments have included 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, he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces intelligence service.

Throughout the first Gulf War he was Arabic interpreter and advisor on Iraq to General Norman Schwarzkopf.

The author of, “Ally to Adversary – An Eyewitness Account of Iraq’s Fall from Grace,” Francona served as the first Air Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria until 1995. In 1995 and 1996, he served in northern Iraq with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life by Iraqi agents. In 1997 and 1998, he was assigned to 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 his book, “Chasing Demons – My Hunt for War Criminals in Bosnia.”

Francona has a bachelor’s degree in government and Arabic, a master’s degree in international relations with a concentration in Middle East studies, and postgraduate work at the University of Copenhagen. 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. He 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.

Francona and his wife Emily reside on the Oregon coast.

The Cazenovia Forum 2014 series will continue on Friday, June 6th with a screening of the award-winning documentary film, “Inequality for All”, an analysis of the vanishing middle class in America.  On September 12th Svante Myrick will be the guest presenter at the Forum.  Myrick is the young, creative Mayor of Ithaca, NY, who grew up in Earlville; he will address the important topic of civic engagement.  The final event in the 2014 series will take place in October and will be announced shortly.

The Cazenovia Forum is a 501 (c)( 3), not-for-profit organization established in 2006 by community members focused on promoting the understanding and discussion of national and international issues. By organizing and underwriting lecture events featuring nationally-known experts, the group intends to further Cazenovia’s commitment to knowledge-seeking and community involvement.  More information can be found at www.cazenoviaforum.com.


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