Iran’s Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri (IRNA)

Iranian Major General Hossein Bagheri blamed Israel for “orchestrating a plot” to hold the Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq.

Iran’s Tasnim News reported Tuesday that Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, accused “the Zionist regime of Israel and global arrogance” of instigating the Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq. Bagheri made the accusation during a gathering of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry personnel on Monday.

While Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence on Monday, several neighboring countries, including Iran and Turkey, voiced opposition to the vote and threatened violence if they felt the developments could endanger their regimes.

Iran fears the move would embolden its Kurdish population. Accordingly, Iran held an ominous military exercises along its border Sunday.

A part of the Iraqi Kurdish territory runs along the Iranian border on the east.

Greater Kurdistan includes all parts of the Kurdish homeland divided by the West after World War I among four Middle Eastern countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

On Monday night, the vast majority of Kurdish people voted in favor of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG’s) secession from Iraq, and revelers took to the streets in Erbil, with some waving Israeli flags to celebrate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the only leader in the region to endorse the referendum and Kurdish independence, while others have warned that the secession plan could bring instability to the region and cause Iraq’s disintegration.

Speaking earlier this month, Netanyahu stated that Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own,” but rejects the PKK’s acts of terrorism committed in the name of Kurdish statehood.

In a direct jab at Turkey, which has been the target of the PKK’s attacks, the statement said that “Israel rejects the PKK and considers it a terrorist organization, as opposed to Turkey, which supports the terror organization Hamas.”

“While Israel rejects terror in any form, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own,” the statement said.

In August, Netanyahu told a delegation of 33 Republican congressmen from the US visiting Israel that the Kurds are “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” expressing support for an independent Kurdish state.

Former Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar observed, “We Jews, like the Kurds, are a minority in the Middle East. Kurds have proven themselves over decades to be a reliable strategic partner for us.”