It was a moment of pride for Iraq’s armed forces, marking 91 years since their creation.
But as soldiers marched in Baghdad, watched by prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, violence was not far away.
Rocket fire against the heavily-fortified Green Zone was a reminder that after the withdrawal of US troops last month, Iraq’s stubborn insurgency goes on.
That was all too clear on Thursday when bomb blasts in mainly Shi’ite areas of the country killed more than 70 people and wounded dozens more.
The attacks come against the backdrop of a major political crisis. Shi’ite premier Maliki is seeking the arrest of Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges he ran death squads. The main Sunni bloc in parliament has boycotted the chamber in protest.