But there’s a good case to be made that next year will finally bring a break in the Iranian standoff — by means of a military confrontation, the appearance of an Iranian bomb or a diplomatic deal of some kind. And interestingly, one of the people making that case is President Obama’s first-term adviser on Iran, Dennis Ross, who has worked on the Middle East in five administrations.

Ross, who left the Obama White House at the end of 2011, concedes that prognosticators of an Iran crisis have a long losing streak. His reasons that next year will be different boil down to three: an approaching Iranian “breakout” capacity; Obama’s stated determination to prevent it; and the slow emergence of an economic and political climate in Iran that could prompt Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to change course…

For the moment, Ross says, the Iranians “are not convinced we are prepared to use force.” Consequently, he says, “at this point I would still put the prospects for diplomacy at less than 50-50.” And: “If by the end of 2013 diplomacy hasn’t worked, the prospects for use of force become quite high.”