Rumors are flying late Sept. 16 that the United States could be shelving its plans to build a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland and Czech Republic. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly will hold a news conference on the issue sometime Sept. 17 or Sept. 18, and U.S. security officials are apparently in Poland briefing Warsaw on the development. The BMD program has long been one of the most contested issues between the United States and Russia, which sees the program as a further Western encroachment on its sphere of influence. Moscow also sees the program as Washington militarily protecting Warsaw and Prague from Russian consolidation of its influence further into Europe. In recent months, Moscow has countered continued U.S. support for Poland and the Czech Republic with its own support for Iran. The situation between the United States and Iran has intensified, with Russia also holding some of the only alternatives for Iran to continue rebuffing U.S. pressure. Washington has been nearing a breakpoint in which it must either take substantial steps to counter Iran or give Russia concessions to have Moscow back off its support for Tehran. As the entire situation intensifies, a U.S. concession on BMD would be one of the first major steps in a Russian-U.S. deal — one which could see Iran's greatest foreign backer flip sides. This means that Russian support to Iran in things like complicating military strikes through the sale of strategic air defense systems and blocking crippling sanctions could now come into question. But all of this is hinged on Washington's following through with shelving the BMD plan — something STRATFOR will be closely watching for as rumors are intensifying that Washington may in fact be conceding to Russia on the BMD issue.