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Aid Groups Issue Grave Warnings as Trump Considers Major Escalation of US Military Role in Yemen

Aid groups warned that American support for a Saudi-led takeover of Yemen's main humanitarian port "would destroy the lifeline to millions."

Yemeni children take part in a protest outside the United Nations Office on November 20, 2017 in Sana'a, Yemen. Protestors demand the UN and the world help Yemen's children by ending the war and lift the blockade imposed on Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. (Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

In a "horrifying" development that international aid groups and independent critics warn could worsen what is already the world's most devastating humanitarian crisis, the Trump administration is reportedly considering a plan to greatly expand the U.S. military's role in Yemen in an effort to help Saudi-backed forces seize the country's main humanitarian aid port.

"The U.S. is weighing a more direct role in a military operation that will push Yemen's famine into overdrive."
—Alex Emmons, The Intercept

According to the Wall Street Journal—which first reported the details of the plan on Sunday—the Trump White House "is weighing an appeal from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for direct U.S. support" for Saudi-forces that are closing in on the port city of Hodeidah, where nearly 80 percent of all humanitarian aid and food arrives. Hodeidah is currently controlled by Houthi rebels.

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asked for a quick assessment of the UAE's plea for assistance such as surveillance drone flights to help a Saudi-led coalition retake Hodeidah," the Journal noted.

"The push for Hodeidah is likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic security situation in Yemen," Francois Moreillon, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, told the Journal in response to the White House's reported plan.

Amid reports that Saudi-backed forces are now just miles away from Hodeidah after taking over a nearby town, Norway Refugee Council chief Jan Egeland additionally warned that an attack on the port city "would destroy the lifeline to millions."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)—one of the few lawmakers from either side of the aisle to speak out forcefully against U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen—ridiculed the Trump administration's apparent consideration of a plan that could further devastate a nation in which millions are already on the brink of famine.

While the plan for a larger U.S. military role in Yemen has not been finalized, the Journal reports that some U.S. officials are eager to provide further military assistance to Saudi-led forces in Yemen.

"We have folks who are frustrated and ready to say: 'Let's do this. We've been flirting with this for a long time," an anonymous Trump administration official told the Journal. "Something needs to change the dynamic, and if we help the Emiratis do it better, this could be good."

The possibility of deeper U.S. involvement in Yemen comes just weeks after the New York Times revealed that U.S. special forces have been helping train Saudi soldiers along the Yemeni border—a secret operation that was not publicly debated or approved by Congress.

"I have strong concerns that the Trump administration is getting the U.S. more involved in a war in Yemen without congressional authorization," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) warned in response to the Times report. "We must prevent the U.S. from getting dragged into another never-ending war."

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